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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Send Us Your Stories

Story by Paul Riker (Read author interview) January 17, 2022

Art by Vanessa Rossetto

We’re currently open to fiction submissions. What do we look for? Our editors have a wide and diverse range of tastes, but, above all, we want to read stories that do something that no story has ever done before.

We want stories that blow us away. We want stories that wow us, that awe us, that captivate us, that capture us. We want words that jump off of the page and pull our hair down and poke out our eyes like a Vaudevillian stage performer.

We want stories of any genre: literary, sci-fi, romance, horror, action, erotica, western, erotic western, horrific western, western sci-fi, erotic action western, eastern western, eastern romance, eastern literary, literary eastern western romance.

We want stories with characters that surprise us, characters that jump out from behind a dark corner and say “boo!” We want stories that put a whoopee cushion under our seat, that place flaming bags full of doggy doo-doo on our front porch. We want stories that leave banana peels in our path and draw Sharpie mustaches on our face while we sleep. We want stories that use the phrase “smell ya later” in casual conversation.

We want stories that are sprawling, that grow and grow and grow, that are an invasive species, that you can’t bring on international flights to any island nation because they will overtake all native vegetation and prompt an international bioethical investigation that could literally put you in jail.

We want stories that rattle, we want stories that shake, we want stories that do the twist, the Mashed Potato, the Watusi, the Funky Chicken; we want stories that go to the left, that take it back now y’all, that one hop this time, that right foot let’s stomp, that left foot let’s stomp, that cha cha real smooth, that (instrumental break), that turn it out.

We want stories that have bungee jumped and gone hang-gliding and climbed many mountains and get up at six AM every day to jog four miles. We want stories that have the bodies of a shredded, vegetarian six-foot-three Danish man. We want your story to wash all of the dishes and mop the floor and go outside and finally spray that wasps’ nest that’s right over our car in the carport. We want a story that enjoys roasted eggplant.

We want a story so experimental that it actually horseshoes back on itself and is conventional. We want you to outright plagiarize Raymond Carver’s “A Small, Good Thing” and brazenly pass it off as your own work.

We want stories that don’t waste time. Put us right into the middle of things. Start a story midway through a sentence. Start a story midway through a word.

We want stories that are a colonoscopy, a hysterectomy, a mammogram. We want stories that are your doctor peering down your throat, saying Yes, your tonsils are definitely inflamed, but I don’t think it’s strep throat. You’d have white bumps, if it was strep throat.

We want stories that don’t use the letters “T” or “W” not once (not once). We want stories that use the letters “B” and “N” exactly 58 times each, no more, no less.

We want stories that can tell the difference between stalactites and stalagmites.

We want stories that remind us of our father. Oh, he was a gentle man: big bushy beard; kind blue eyes; an affable, easy-going personality that could charm even the most guarded heart. Indeed, we can picture the many mornings out at the old creek, catching trout, the tiny green fishes waggling on the end of our lines like branches in the summer breeze. How proud our father must have been of us; how great his glistening gaze shone down, like sun’s rays cutting through cumulus clouds. When we buried him – father no longer so burly, the cancer reducing him to a toothpick of a man – we looked ahead at our life and saw that it was hazy. Where was our protector? Where were those bluish, kindly eyes? Oh, crawling existence: how can one persist when persistence is plagued by torment, when the anguish of life is nothing but perpetual torsion? To see his cherubic face again: to see him, casting his fishing line off of our boat, and, when that meager trout bit the sharp end of his wormed hook, give a brief cough of amazement; a tiny, smiling gasp of wonder.

Simultaneous submissions are fine.

_________________________

This piece was a winner in The SmokeLong Quarterly Comedy Prize 2021 competition. 

About the Author

Paul Riker is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Purdue University. He is the recipient of the National Society of Arts and Letters’ Holl Merit and Jones Merit Award, its top prize in literature for the state of Indiana. He was also a finalist for the 2020 Iowa Review Award in Fiction, as well as the 2021 Montana Prize in Fiction. His work has been featured or is forthcoming in Salt HillCutBank, the Nashville ReviewDrunk MonkeysCrack the Spine, and elsewhere. He lives in Lafayette, Indiana.

About the Artist

Vanessa Rossetto is an American composer, improviser and painter. She uses primarily chamber instrumentation, field recordings, electronics and a wide array of different objects exploring them through extended and traditional techniques and other methods of her own devising.

This story appeared in Issue Seventy-Four of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Four
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