The sixth annual Innovative Short Fiction Contest opens for submissions in a couple months. We’re pleased to announce this year’s judge is Sarah Gerard, author of Sunshine State (Harper Perennial, 2017), Binary Star (Two Dollar Radio, 2015), and the forthcoming novel True Love (Harper Books, 2020). Sarah’s short stories, essays, interviews, and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, T Magazine, Granta, The Baffler, Vice, and anthologies.
The contest runs from April 1st to July 1st, 2019. The winner receives $500, publication, and a copy of the judge’s latest book. Full details and guidelines are available here.
The Conium Review‘s managing editor James R. Gapinski is a finalist for the Vestal Review Award (also called the VERA). His story, “Tuxedos and Evening Gowns,” was first nominated by Tethered By Letters and published in F(r)iction magazine. Finalists were selected by Vestal Review editors. The winner will be determined by reader votes! You can read the story here. Please vote using “part II” of the poll (“part I” is closed to votes).
Turns out there’s always work for a corpse. I’m talking movies, TV, emopunk music videos, texting-and-driving commercials, crime scene reenactments, all that jazz. If you’ve turned on your cable box in the last month, you’ve seen me dead. Most of my appearances are in the first two minutes of police dramas. Sometimes the script calls for me to be naked, washed up on a beach with seaweed in my hair. Sometimes I play a woman corpse; they position me facedown, shave my back, and put a red curly wig on my head. Open casket scenes are best because I wear a clean suit and coffins are lined with satin. More often I’m discovered in a dumpster, bloody with shackle bruises on my ankles and wrists, or bunched up and stuffed into a front loader at an abandoned laundromat. I get really into my parts. I can keep my eyes open for almost an hour without blinking. I can breathe for a whole day without expanding my chest cavity. When I’m dead, I think dead people thoughts, like what year is it? and where am I buried? and how many ounces in a pint? I block out my surroundings so well that I don’t always come back to life when the scene ends. If this happens, the production assistant dumps a glass of water over my head. That usually does the trick. Last fall I costarred with Dwayne Johnson. It was during his Dwayne Johnson phase. I played his dead brother. DJ cradled me in his gorilla arms and cried and shook like a paint can mixer at Home Depot. I acted dead. DJ didn’t stop crying until after lunch. My agent says I’m the most convincing corpse he’s ever seen, and he’s seen actual corpses. Auditions can be tough—the competition is stiff. Sorry. That’s an industry joke. But really, casting is uncomfortable. The directors shout at me, kick me, call me names, eat plates of linguine off my back. But I am dead as a dinosaur. They usually apologize after. My girlfriend decided we should try role playing, but she always wanted me to play the same part. We broke up. It was mutual. Now I have the apartment to myself so I can rehearse whenever I like. I play loud music and leave all the widows open and door unlocked and shower running in hopes that someone will discover me. That’s my one fantasy. It would be the absolute height of my career to be mistaken for a corpse by a pedestrian. I imagine being declared dead, fooling even the coroner. I would remain in character until the first shovel of dirt hit the mahogany.
About the Author:
Thomas Michael Duncan writes fact, fiction, and the occasional bit of nonsense. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina.
This story was a finalist in The Conium Review‘s 2016 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Leesa Cross-Smith.
Image Credit: © Handini_Atmodiwiryo – stock.adobe.com
The Conium Review: Vol. 5 collector’s edition is coming soon! Here’s a sneak peak at some of this year’s design. This is a mock-up of the micro-chap for “Ruby Goes In,” by Kate Gies. This flash fiction was one of our 2016 Innovative Short Fiction Contest finalists. This little booklet is 3.5-inches by 3 inches. The cover is recycled craft paper, the interior leaf is 24-lb parchment paper, and the inner pages are 24-lb bright white natural linen paper. This is one of several individual stories that will be presented inside the collector’s edition.