My short story “An Incomplete List of My Wishes” has just won the James Knudsen Editor’s Prize in Fiction from Bayou Magazine, the literary journal of the University of New Orleans. Contest judge Joseph Boyden said, “This gorgeously written story snuck up and walloped me. It’s beautifully conceived and executed. A gem, with a last line that made me shiver.”
Thank you, Mr. Boyden and Bayou! The story will appear in the spring 2012 issue. Order a copy here. Meanwhile, enjoy the opening paragraphs:
An Incomplete List of My Wishes
The best funeral I ever went to was Wallace P. Chandler’s. I didn’t know him hardly at all, I just went because everyone else was going, and because his death was unexpected it seemed important.
You know how it is, on a warm and buzzing May afternoon, with those bits of tree fluff lazing through the air, and the campus seeming half-empty but tense with last-minute cramming, all those boys and girls discovering where’s that library their parents paid for — on that kind of day, especially if you don’t really know the dead person, the mildewy cool of the college chapel feels kind of nice, and the sawing of the cello makes you tired, and you start to wonder about things like how Wallace P. Chandler, who was so fat and short that his thighs made you think of elephant-leg umbrella stands, could possibly fit in that coffin. And when you realize how interesting you find all this, you know it’s wrong, but it’s the only thing you can feel, hard as you try.
I can guess why I’m remembering this today, but I wish it would stop until this plane hits the ground in Dallas, where I’ll have more than enough to occupy me. Not hits, no. Glides through the air, a south-west beeline from Boston, bulleting like the football my ex used to throw to our boy Scotty every sunny weekend in our fenced-in backyard in Watertown. The grass never grew back right; the stood-on, skidded-on patches still show.
The stewardess clip-clops down the aisle in her fake military jacket and pencil skirt to offer us coffee, tea, orange or tomato juice. If this silver tube of stale air and us packed inside it began to smoke, to dip and lurch, to maybe hesitate for a second on a tilt and then, with a shrug, scream nose-down into one of the fruited plains, there’d be no time to find out our favorite hymns. No time to ask which priest, or whether gardenias were a better choice because Aunt Peggy was allergic to lilies. Some of us on this flight may have made a list like that, tucked into a safe-deposit box, but I haven’t.
Feeling incomplete? Order a copy of the magazine to find out how it ends!