As a thank you to our readers, contributors and subscribers, here is a sneak preview of some work by Short Grain winners upcoming in our Winter 49.2 issue of Grain.
HORSE CHRISTMAS | Kate Black [Excerpt, First Prize, Fiction]
Maybe it started in her mother’s foot, a jump of nerves when Auntie Kim came through the unlocked front door. Alana was squatting under the TV tray and removing Mommy’s toenail polish with acetone. She took one last look at her evening’s work: blue sparkles buffed off and baring Mommy’s yellowed nails underneath. She did it all with one hand—her other arm was in a cast, a low throb beating down her elbow into her fingertips.
The screen door screamed and snapped. It made Alana jump. She bumped her head on the TV tray, sending Mommy’s cup and the blue Christmas tree teetering.
“Jee-sus,” Mommy said, steadying her drink with one hand, reaching in vain with the other. Kim caught the tree with her elbow, the rest of her arms heavy with plastic grocery bags.
“Happy almost-Christmas,” Kim said.
Alana gathered the stained cotton balls and crawled out. She looked at the two women:
Kim’s thick-streaked yellow hair sharper than usual; Mommy taking in Jeopardy! via osmosis. Before Kim came, Mommy held Alana’s ears and told her two very important things. Alana had to keep her lips zipped. Mommy had lied to Auntie Kim. Mommy told Auntie Kim that she had sold Alana’s horse, Trigger, for money. She lied to Auntie Kim to get her off her back.
SUN COLOURS, DEEP FIELD | Elana Wolff [Second Prize, Poetry]
There was lingering—a scent, a gentle
knelling sound a body could trust.
Lemony yellow, fennel green,
a whimpering over milk.
Sheer loveliness of rosy gummy gums.
Looking up is the essential vertical gesture,
I recently read: infants in the arms of mom,
their open, soulful gaze.
You don’t command them, Look at me.
Instinctively and sweetly, they just do.
to leaving a place
one didn’t intend to leave so soon;
abruptly. If loving once meant tending,
it’s now refrain. A deeper field of longing,
where earlier, it seems, mere wanting lay.
PIGEONS | Joshua Levy [Excerpt, Third Prize, Fiction]
Well, the pigeons ate the wedding rice and exploded somewhere over San Antonio.
I picked up the newlyweds and asked them where they wanted to go. They said, “We don’t care, we don’t know, anywhere, just go.”
“I can do that,” I said.
I piloted the limousine out of the parking lot and past rows of painted wooden houses clinging to the sides of the road. We were thirty miles from Mexico. They had tied the knot in Brackettville¾at that phony Alamo. The bride winked in my rear-view mirror while her husband nibbled gleefully on her earlobe. Her hair was auburn, her skin the colour of finely stirred chocolate milk¾just a real good-looking girl in a tight, white wedding dress. Meanwhile, the groom was taller and blonder and more muscular than I could ever be. Neither of them was wearing a mask, but I wasn’t either, so I wasn’t going to bring it up.
The newlyweds were laughing about some uncle named Jack who’d gotten too drunk and cried during his toast.
“What a doofus,” they said. “But, also, like, what a total sweetheart!?”
As I drove, brief scenes played out in the windows of the houses. A man spooning soup; two women laughing hysterically in matching armchairs; a baby hoisted towards the ceiling by—well, probably the father.
The next time I looked in the rear-view mirror, things had evolved. The bride was straddling the groom and rocking back and forth on his lap. So, I raised the privacy divider and counted mailboxes zooming by.