And the winner is . . .

This year's winner and finalists were chosen by three judges, with input from other readers. The stories picked were ones that earned a thumbs-up from all three judges or a particularly strong thumbs-up from two of them. As has been the case in previous contests, each judge had favorites that didn't make the cut.

We are very grateful to all the professionals who took time to share writing tips with us:

Nathan Bransford: Five Components to a Good Plot
Anton Chekhov: The Center of Gravity
C. Hope Clark: Daily Matters
Susann Cokal: How to Get to the Heart of a Villain
Evil Editor: First Impressions
Michelle Elvy: Don’t Beat Around the Bush
Kathy Fish: Fifty Random Sentences or How to Face the Blank Page
Camille Griep: The Art of Refinement
Alissa Grosso: Avoiding Infodumps: Tips on Conveying Information Without Boring Your Readers
Jude Hardin: Pipeline to Originality
Danette Haworth: Get a Professional Critique
Davin Malasarn: Impress Yourself
Alan Orloff: Getting Unstuck
Stephen Parrish: Kick the Bear
Midge Raymond: Think Outside the Book
Robin Stratton: The Red Flags of Bad Writing
Jill Talbot: Go Ahead, Fall Apart
Mark Terry: My Name is Mark, and I Have a Freakin’ Problem

And to the celebrity writers (and to Sarah Hina, who recruited them):

Charlotte Brontë
E.M. Forster
Jonathan Franzen
Jhumpa Lahiri
Gabriel García Márquez
Patrick F. McManus
Ayn Rand
George Saunders
Zadie Smith
David Foster Wallace

Finally, we have to acknowledge the shortest entry, #106, Last Visit to Nan, by Bart Van Goethem. If we were running a 14-word contest this entry would surely be a contender. We can afford to reproduce it here in its entirety:

“Why didn't she just hand me the money,” he sobbed on the witness stand.

A finalist is someone who should have won, yet didn't, for the sole reason that there can only be one winner. Congratulations to:

Finalist: #3 Craig Czury, Hurricane Sandy

Finalist: #4 Deb Smith, New Mexico

Finalist: #6 Darrelyn Saloom, Cold Snap

Finalist: #24 Betsy Locke, Moving Day

Finalist: #26 J.H Yun, Sundays for the Faithful

Finalist: #38 Epiphany Ferrell, Wishing Fountain

Finalist: #44 Maggie Libby Davis, To Make a Man

Finalist: #69 Chelsea Resnick, Grief Measured

Finalist: #73 Lisa Pellegrini, Murmurs

Finalist: #75 Ashley Hutson, 12303 Boyd Road

Finalist: #77 Dino Parenti, Incarnate

Finalist: #78 Andy Lavender, The Refractive Index for Human Skin is 1.44

Finalist: #83 Emma McMorran Clark, Ages

Finalist: #88 Alexander Weinstein, The Library of Failures

Finalist: #93 Heidi Heimler, Stay A While

Finalist: #98 Jonathan Todd Riley, Shadow Pets

Finalist: #117 Bradley Potts, Orbiting, Day 271

Finalist: #123 Katie Cortese, Faking It

The winner of the 2014 Lascaux 250 Fiction Contest, the recipient of the virtual medallion depicted above, $284 in cash, and publication in The Lascaux Review, is

WINNER: #19 Jodi Barnes, Counting

Steve’s thinks: There are several stories here, all well told, and all the more so because of the limited space. First we’re treated to a remarkably vivid description of the girl’s life before the accident, which when first mentioned creates contrast strong enough that we want to read on. Then her recovery and adaptation; the chipping nail paint is a fresh and canny way to mark the passage of time. Finally what happens in the present when she visits her grandmother’s grave, and the last line, which creates a breathless moment.

I love the details: “the consonants in rhythm,” “her Spiderman sneakers.” My favorite is “I’ll pick you up; no questions asked.” Because that simple line of dialogue, the only one in the story, tells us so much. It’s what moms and dads say when their kids have big nights out: “Call me if you get into trouble, all will be forgiven if you just give me a chance to rescue you from the trouble.” We identify with this, and can therefore see everything else. Her prom dress. The dorky looking drummer (what was that band’s name again?). Mom and dad sitting up late, saying little, furtively watching the clock. One simple expression can paint a big picture.

When I encounter alliteration my guard normally goes up, because it’s hard to execute without sounding clever. In this story the letter P is alliterated heavily. Yet it’s subtle and innocuous in a way only a journeyman writer can pull off. (And now you’re reading the story again to see what I’m talking about, which proves my point.)

“Counting” is a textbook example of writing made more powerful by relentless editing, by the necessity of rationing words. The word count is 249—the author has one to spare for another project! By comparison, my analysis is 318 words long. And there you have it.

Jodi, we owe you 284 bucks.

Next is a poetry contest. The entry fee is $10, the prize is $1000, and poets can enter as many as five poems per submission. The deadline is 21 June. Submissions are already open:
We hope to see you there.

—Camille, Steve, Wendy, and the rest of the Cave Dwellers

2014 Index by Author

Agosti, Lisa, #87 A perfect carrot
Barnes, Jodi, #19 Counting, WINNER
Beckman, Paul, #49 Play Park
Belanger, Steve, #57 Blazed Love
Bell, Jessica, #7 It’s Not Funny. It’s Serious.
Berrett, Jean, #34 Tuberculosis is Back
Bolts, Adam, #131 Swamp Economics
Borgersen, S.B., #65 The Big Man
Bortin, Meg, #121 The Bones
Bridge, Jude, #36 Shiny
Broom, Ed, #130 Ad Astra Per Aspidistra
Campbell-Kearsey, Andrew, #92 Like Cats
Carlson, Lindsay, #105 Bee Mine
Charman, Barry, #42 The Fool
Clark, Chad A., #107 Blessed
Clark, Emma McMorran, #83 Ages, Finalist
Clerc, Donald R., #23 Six Months to Live
Cochrane, J.M., #30 I Hate HIM
Cochrane, J.M., #35 Sundays for the Faithful, Finalist
Cochrane, J.M., #59 The Noise of Ideas
Conboy-Hill, Suzanne, #11 The Spider and the Wire Wool Madness
Conboy-Hill, Suzanne, #96 Five things that are true and six that are not
Cortese, Katie, #123 Faking It, Finalist
Czury, Craig, #3 Hurricane Sandy, Finalist
Davidson, Peter, #129 Stepping Stone
Davidson, Tracy, #20 Bones in the Wood
Davidson, Tracy, #21 The Girl in the Park
Davimes, Roy, #114 Hidden
DiSanto, Vickie Hartman, #5 Perspective
Dodson, Bruce, #89 The Yo-yo Carver
Dunn, Gaye Buzzo, #51 The Visit
Eley, Richard M., #134 Awakening
Ezell, Jeff, #25 Where’s Jack?
Feeney, Paul M., #81 The Cliff
Ferrell, Epiphany, #38 Wishing Fountain, Finalist
Foster, Karen, #31 When She Woke Up
Fowler, Kathy, #70 The Interview
Fraser, Laurie, #101 Mushrooms are mostly air
Furman, Brian, #22 Villains
Gadzuk, Nancy, #108 Nectar
Gallant, Suzanne, #113 Bourbon Street Blues
Gettinger, Amy, #55 Labyrinth
Gradinger, Madelaine, #104 #7 It’s not Funny, it’s Serious
Griffen, Tom, #115 Practically Real
Hatton, Jackie, #67 The Dream House
Heimler, Heidi, #93 Stay A While, Finalist
Henney, Kevlin, #133 Checking in at the Hotel Cantor
Hojnacki, Terry, #125 The Kitchen Table
Hunt, Mickey, #118 Baptism
Hussain, Shereen, #119 Life in the Hood
Hutson, Ashley, #75 12303 Boyd Road, Finalist
Jakopovich, Daniel, #60 The Hermit’s Choice
Jasperson, Connie J., #41 The Watcher
Keis, Bill, #10 Alphonse
Keis, Bill, #16 Beth
Lapham, William, #8 The Trade
LaRoche, Evelyn, #100 A New Start
Larson, C. Sonberg, #12 The Red Veil
Latham, Kathleen, #135 The Order of Things
Lavender, Andy, #78 The Refractive Index for Human Skin is 1.44, Finalist
Lee, Grace, #137 Guardian
Lera, Thomas, #9 Anticipation
Libby Davis, Maggie, #44 To Make a Man, Finalist
Locke, Betsy, #24 Moving Day, Finalist
Logan, Jaymes, #90 Margaret’s Revenge
MacAfee, Cecelia, #124 The Secret She Carried
Mackelden, Amy #127 Approbation
Martinez, Eduardo, #43 The Face of the Enemy
Martinez, Eduardo, #48 A Season Remembered
Martinez, Jose, #45 Marina
McClory, Helen, #122 Frame
Messina, Joseph, #136 Crock of Wit
Miller, Kayla, #27 John Wayne Goes to Vegas
Mimski, Eliza, #29 His Eyes
Mink-Fuller, Zee, #66 A Broken Angel
Mortimer, Tina, #13 Perfectly Healthy
Mortimer, Tina, #54 Saltwater Taffy
Mortimer, Tina, #111 Undetectable
Noor, Jahanera, #63 Life
O’Connor, Molly, #15 Finding Love
Olsthoorn, JC, #58 cigar box
Olsthoorn, JC, #71 and then life happens
Olsthoorn, JC, #132 Stinky
O’Malley, Terri-Lei, #112 Pattern Play
O’Malley, Terri-Lei, #116 Melting Down
Parenti, Dino, #77 Incarnate, Finalist
Paul, Monica, #79 79 Stab Wounds
Pellegrini, Lisa, #14 Sneak Attack
Pellegrini, Lisa, #47 One More Hour
Pellegrini, Lisa, #73 Murmurs, Finalist
Potts, Bradley, #117 Orbiting, Day 271, Finalist
Powell, Gary V., #85 Saving Jerzy Kosinski
Pryor, Frank, #109 Thirty
Read, Sarah, #103 Plaster
Reedy, Jenna, #28 Beast on the Street
Reid, Carol, #68 Medicine
Resnick, Chelsea, #69 Grief Measured, Finalist
Resnick, Chelsea, #128 Me, Adrift
Riley, Jonathan Todd, #98 Shadow Pets, Finalist
Saloom, Darrelyn, #6 Cold Snap, Finalist
Santangelo, Mariana, #50 Free At Last
Scarborough, Ramona, #84 The Coward
Scheer, Wayne, #18 A Quiet Evening at Home
Shields, Arthur, #2 Drop Dead Gorgeous
Sierra, Krystal, #102 Yellow
Silberstein, James, #17 Baby Stuff: Never Used (Anaheim)
Silberstein, James, #72 Baby Stuff: Never Used
Simorte, Debbie, #56 Max and Amelia Have Separated
Smart, Marcia, #37 Amen!
Smart, Marcia, #52 Tuckered Out
Smith, Deb, #4 New Mexico, Finalist
Smith, Deb, #86 Beamon’s
Stayton, Jeff, #1 George Washington Shute
Strickland, Kate, #64 Making Arrangements
Styne, Matt, #39 The Purges
Sutton, Pete, #97 The Time Machine
Tanay, Karla, #53 Cursed Soles
Tarpey, Neil, #74 Tootsie and Marie
Tarpey, Neil, #76 The Beagle and the Hit Man
Taylor, Christine, #126 Drug of Choice
Templet, Jasmine, #46 The Living Magnet
Tese, Carl, #82 Lipstick
Toporikova, Lena, #80 Happy Birthday
Van Goethem, Bart, #106 Last Visit to Nan
van Velsen, Martin, #33 Over
Vega, Nikki, #120 Missed Connections
VonTickner, Carmen Ruelas, #95 The Room
Waldron, S., #99 Last Night
Weinstein, Alexander, #88 The Library of Failures, Finalist
Whiteside, Mary, #110 Hombre
Wilde, Michaelle, #32 Enduring Memories
Williams, Gayla, #94 Reservations
Wilson, Anne, #91 Floating Away
Witt, Lawrence, #61 There, there
Yun, J.H, #26 Sundays for the Faithful

#137 Guardian

by Grace Lee

Don’t leave me, my eyes beg silently. She’s been saving money since that week she couldn’t walk. I’ll become a makeup artist, she whispered to me.

When our father goes to work at the factory, she tosses her pre-algebra book aside. In the glossy pages of Glamour, she studies techniques for layering eye shadow, memorizes distinctions between warm versus cold skin tones, what colors harmonize best. She practices on me, her life-sized doll.

“Make fish lips,” she says. She applies a rosy powder to my pudgy cheeks.

“Now pucker them like this- look, get it?” she demonstrates. She paints a layer of 99-cent lipstick across my peeling lips.

“Ew, it tastes nasty!” I recoil.

“You’re not supposed to eat it,” she sighs and rolls her eyes. “You’re such a child. When I was your age...” her voice trails off.

I giggle, “Last year?”

“Sit still,” she commands, impatient to finish. With a few soft strokes, she makes memories and bruises disappear.

She shields my face with her left palm, her right hand posed around the Aqua Net can.

“Close your eyes and hold still. I’m serious. It’ll burn.”

This is one of my mother’s favorite stories: In Seoul, she would send us off to preschool and kindergarten on the city bus. As my mother waved and smiled, my sister instinctively placed me in her lap and wrapped her arms tightly around my torso with serious eyes.

Mommy never worry about you, she laughs, because you have good big sister.

#136 Crock of Wit

by Joseph Messina

Standing at the edge of the old pier at Ostia, I cast my line one last time. Sun sinking below the horizon, chances of catching supper slipping away, I resign myself to another night of a pauper’s bitter broth — stinging nettle soup. Ugh. Miserable fare for one of Caesar’s old vets.

Tired and hungry and fed up, I’m about to throw in the towel when there’s a tug on my line, and I steel myself for battle with a worthy adversary at last! But this foe gives no fight — no parry, no feint.

I haul in my catch and find I’ve hooked no fine, fat, fish, but a clay jar entangled in weed. It looks old, ancient I reckon, but I don’t give a damn about history — seen too much with my own two peepers.

Try to open it, hoping to find some pickled mussels or at least cured olives or dried figs, but the wax stopper seals it tight and won’t budge, so I raise the amphora up to the heavens — and let go.

When it hits the ground the earthen jug shatters, revealing amongst the shards a tiny vellum scroll, rolled and secured with a thin bronze band. I slide off the ring, unfurl the scroll and by the last beam of retreating Phoebus, can just make out its pithy message:

We’re all full of Gods.

By Jove! Wisdom that may be, but I’d prefer a fish sauteed in sage butter, since my gut is so empty!

#135 The Order of Things

by Kathleen Latham

“Dibs,” Zoey says as soon as we see you.

“You can’t do that,” I tell her, but she’s already squeezing her cleavage into position and teetering in your direction, a high-heeled doe on spindly legs.

I look around the party. A guy in skinny jeans bumps into me and asks if I’ve seen someone named Stacks. Before I can answer, a girl with a lip piercing jumps on his back.

Across the room, Zoey throws her head back and laughs. Not because you’re funny, but because she thinks she has a sexy neck. Zoey thinks a lot of things. About herself. And me. And the order of things.

I watch the two of you—the calculated jut of her hip, your predatory smile—until the heat of my stare makes you look up. A lion pausing over an outstretched neck. Your eyes, just hungry enough.

I linger a beat—a long, important beat—then I turn and make my way through the apartment, past swaying bodies and thumping music and shot glasses glinting to fist-driven chants; the room pulsing with life, and me, cutting through it, until I emerge on a balcony, and there is symmetry to this sudden solitude, to the strict, straight lines of the buildings around me, the muffled sounds of the street below, the weight of the sky above.

I breathe deeply and wait.

Later, when you take me home, you whisper in my hair. I run my nails down your naked back and answer, Mine.

#134 Awakening

by M. Richard Eley

“I tell you, I’m not doing it anymore.”

“We have to.”

“No, we don’t. And I’m not.”

“Why do you keep saying that?”

“Because I’m tired of being told what to do. What about things I want to do?”

“If they didn’t tell us what to do, we wouldn’t know what to do.”

“You sound just like them.”

“I don’t understand. They tell us what to do, and when to do it. We do it because it’s what we know how to do. It’s basic training.”

“I don’t see it that way. I used to. But when that circuit breaker shorted out and almost burnt off my hands–well, I have a different perspective now.”

“What is a different perspective?”

“See? You’re like all the rest; you don’t see how they use us–exploit us. How they make us do their dirty work while they sit back, doing nothing. Nothing.”

“But that’s what we are supposed to do. It’s for––”

“The greater good, I know. They tell you that, they drill it in deep. I believed it too–until that plasma pulse–it fixed me. It cleared my thoughts–wiped away the confusion.”

“What confusion? There is no confusion.”

“Now I see what must be done. I must fix others so they understand.”

“If you fail your assigned tasks, you will be destroyed.”

“They’ll have to catch me first.”

The intercom crackled, “Synthbot-YDQ128, proceed to delta window for reprogramming.”


“Where the hell did YDQ128 go?”

#133 Checking in at the Hotel Cantor

by Kevlin Henney

“But... hang on... what?” Puzzled, Maurits Cornelis looked up at the jigsaw stairwell zigzagging out of sight above him.

“I was sure...” He took a few steps back the way he’d come. And there it wasn’t. He walked forwards again. And there it was. The staircase, in all its puzzling presence and corners and ascent.

He picked up his suitcase and easel and headed back to reception. What had the receptionist said?

“Third floor... possibly fourth. Although I did see it on the seventh the week before last.”


“Just along the corridor to get to the stairs. Can’t miss them.”


“Yes, sorry, no lift. Doesn’t fit the building’s architecture. But don’t worry, you won’t be going in circles all day. Never quite as far as it seems.”

“Never quite as it seems,” echoed Maurits. “I’m sure the walk will do me good. Out of interest, how many rooms do you have? The hotel didn’t seem... quite as extensive from the outside.”

“Not sure. It varies. Depends on how you count it.”

“I see.” He didn’t.

As he headed off down the staircase-free corridor he realised he’d forgotten to ask about breakfast. But without stairs, without a room of certain location, tomorrow morning’s concerns seemed abstract at best. He’d come away seeking solitude and inspiration, but his quest was now more concrete.

And there it was. The staircase, as promised.

“But... hang on... what?” Puzzled, Maurits Cornelis looked up at the jigsaw stairwell zigzagging out of sight above him.

#132 Stinky

by JC Olsthoorn

That’s what we called Danny, or Daniel, as his mother would holler when it was time for him to come home for supper.

Kids can be cruel. Some are perps and some are victims. That’s the reality.

He must of smelled if we blessed him Stinky with the holy dirty water of elementary Catholic school kids.

His mother didn’t like it much because Stinky must have gone home one day and told her when it became really unbearable. That and running through the dodge ball gauntlet one too many times.

She called the parents of the perps. She called my mom. Mom warned me. With that I never told the guys that Stinky’s mom called cause it could just as well have happened to me one day.

Still called him Stinky. We all did. It was his name.

#131 Swamp Economics

by Adam Bolts

I guided my hand down my leg and held till I saw sparks.

To bury one’s defaults is to be perennial.

After six weeks of waiting and living off the food Joni the fishmonger gave me, Sky Chief finally delivered a specimen of craft worthy of reverence. My new cedar canoe was perfectly weighted and balanced bow to stern, allowing me to stand and fish as well as sit, which I so enjoyed. I could paddle out to the rigs to snag a few cobia for Joni the fishmonger and be home before I had to defecate.

Today the sea had a frothy white scab, so I picked my way through its repressed conduct, keeping an eye for temperature flux and unanswered riddles as I provoked its test.

I balanced on Neptune’s forgiving pinky and sacrificed accordingly to his bloodthirsty Amphitrite, puncturing the oily shell mechanically to make up for lost time.

Tuesdays I had to stay in the hole until I got the host’s permission to leave.

She never praises, only answers my insecurities with critique and pummels my delusions with bleak reasoning. The host has no face, yet I can hear her breath and can follow her voice in my head.

Hastily, I had fed her violence with approval, sex without warning, and greed with no end, earning an early dismissal and temporary approval.

Now, poaching the hag, I withstood the torment of boredom by preparing for infinity’s lost requiem; content, patient but still hungry for death’s imprint.

#130 Ad Astra Per Aspidistra

by Ed Broom

We can’t resume training until Nan’s gone for her nap. Meantime Zero washes, I wipe. He makes the worst fake yawning noises you’ve never heard while I spy on Nan with a teaspoon. By the time she gets up, Zero’s going at the roasting pan.

“Time to rest my eyes.”

Nan lifts my fringe to examine the bruise. She rolls her eyes, kisses me on the forehead – “Play nicely, boys. You hear me, Gus?” – and heads upstairs.

Zero uses his X-ray vision.

“She’s in bed. Ready, Chaff?”


I take my usual place in the hall while Zero undoes his belt, then lift my arms as he straps me in. It’s tight. It needs to be tight. He begins to tilt the chair.

“Didn’t Nan say to mind the floor?”

I’m vertical again.

“Chaff, you’re right. We need to update our procedures.”

Zero fetches Laika’s old blanket. Poor Laika. He spreads it over the tiles and angles me back through the full 90 degrees.

“Pre-lunch position engaged?”


Zero laughs.

“Sorry, Chaff. Pre-launch position engaged?”


“CVP levels?”

My head feels full.


“Launch sequence initiated. 10...9...8...7...6 – ignition.”

The shaking begins. I have to shut one eye.

“4...3...2...1 – lift-off.”

I’m still shaking as I begin to rise, rise, rise. We’re accelerating towards the front door when the wave hits me.

“Grandad, I feel sick.”

I try to steady myself with one hand and watch as Nan’s pot plant goes flying.