Loud Coffee Press recently announced the release of our second annual micro-fiction contest, centered around the theme of the photo below. There were two winners of the contest, writers Brook Bhagat and Josh Dale! We are excited to feature Bhagat and Dale's work in the upcoming summer issue, due out on July 30th.
Once again, we were thrilled to receive many high quality submissions, which made judging a difficult task, and goes to show the talent prevalent in this writing community. Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the three runners-up in the LCP 2021 Summer Micro-Fiction Contest.
by Nicole Ravas
How did you get here? You all went to that movie, an agonizing 82 minutes in which a couple make each other more and more miserable, but ultimately the anger just peters out into a lifetime of resentment. The cynicism still pierces your throat. It becomes a buzzing sound gnawing at your jaw.
It’s the whirr of one of those quarter fortune machines. You put in the quarter—well, a dollar, actually, it is 2021, after all. It doesn’t work. You kick the box a few times. You feel bad for jostling the woman inside. Her hand shakes over the plastic “magic” ball, the light in the sphere twinkles in and out.
Suddenly, this $1 message is everything. Paul and his friends annoy you. You glare at him. He raises his hands in resigned defeat. Your arms freeze. Now the movie’s questions you tried to ignore are flooding your head. Is love real? Is commitment artificial, a construct of the marriage machine? You sound like Paul.
You dig in your pocket and find a wrinkly dollar. You straighten it against the corner of Izabella’s box.
Is a man just too linked to his primal instincts to ever be with one person? Are people ultimately just as faithful as their ability to be happy?
The dollar barely pushes through the slot.
Will Izabella finally tell you what could have been or might be?
Her words are garbled. The card pops out.
“Smile. Today is your day.”
Nicole Ravas has a BA in English from Marymount University and an MA in Interdisciplinary Education from Santa Clara University. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, she lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, her son, and their two dogs. She is an executive assistant and adjunct instructor at Carlow University, where she received her MFA in Creative Writing with a fiction concentration in December 2020. Prior to working at Carlow, she was a K-12 English teacher for 13 years. She won The Ekphrastic Review’s first Flash in a Flash contest in March 2021. She is a fiction reader for the Northern Appalachia Review and a freelance editor.
by Matt Micheli
A little girl comes up with wavy dark hair and as many gaps as teeth.
“Dad! Dad!” she says. “Do you have a quarter?” Her smile beams watching the man approach with some loose change.
She excitedly places the coin in the slot that bangs down the tunnel, chiming atop other coins deep inside. An electric warmth pulses through your body with flashes so bright you close your eyes…
You open them to see the machine that held you for who knows how long and the name on the prison that is no longer your own.
The man comes up, looks at the gypsy machine’s name.
“Izabella? Y’all share the same name,” he says, smiling. “Cool, huh?”
You breathe in the musky smell from this cursed store but then the delicious aromas from the coffee shop next door. It may have been months or years since your last cup. Your mouth salivates.
“What did it do . . . when you put the quarter in?” the man asks.
“Oh . . .” You think for a moment. “Nothing. I think it’s broken.”
You walk outside into the bright day following behind your presumptive dad, ready to enjoy your new life. You feel bad for the unfortunate little girl—now a cursed prisoner of that dreaded machine—but not bad enough to trade places with her.
Someone else will free her, you tell yourself as the glorious sun warms your cheeks and fresh air brushes your skin. Someone else.
Matt Micheli is a writer out of New Braunfels, TX. He has several fiction and non-fiction pieces featured in various anthologies and magazines and is a multi-contributor/reviewer/columnist at This Is Horror Magazine. He is a loving husband and father and spends his days dabbling in domestication and his nights in Tequila.
by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky
Perhaps it was the cloudless blue of her organza blouse that first caught his eye, but Sam was a goner. He’d feed every last dollar on Earth into that bill validator to hear Izabella prognosticate.
Drawn back to the boardwalk every day since they met, he developed a fondness for pink cotton candy and sported a permanent vacation burn across the bridge of his nose. At first Sam tried to feel foolish about it, but now he slept with fortunes piled under his pillow, dreaming of the future.
And why shouldn’t he? Those shiny jet tresses! The flapper arch of her brows! Eyes that peered into infinity!
Sam felt certain that no one else understood what she saw, all that he believed possible while watching the measured arc of Izabella’s manicured hands over her glowing crystal ball.
That he might kiss each cuff and bangle on those treasured wrists!
Outside the crowded arcade the boardwalk blinked and rattled and spun on the brink of the vast, unconquerable ocean as children screamed with mock fear in preparation for the looming inevitable disappointments of adulthood. Who wanted to buy overpriced tickets to another round of that?
As Izabella taught him, not Sam.
Sam now knew how to keep love going. He would portion it one fortune at a time. With courtly bow and rakish wink, Sam blew Izabella a kiss when no one was looking, then stepped back into the night, which held the scent of freshly squeezed lemonade and buttered popcorn.
Felicia Sanzari Chernesky is a longtime editor, slowly publishing poet, and author of six picture books, including From Apple Trees to Cider, Please! and The Boy Who Said Nonsense (Albert Whitman). In 2018 she moved away from the masthead to work with people who want to share their stories, ideas, and poems in print. Her fiction has been nominated for a 2021 Pushcart and Best Microfiction. She lives with her family in Flemington, New Jersey. Find her online at www.feliciachernesky.com.
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