The Guy in the Gold Sequined Shoes

Posted in Feature, Literary, More Stories

Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
June 3, 2015

On Wednesday, May 27, writer Chris Spencer, wearing his signature gold sequined shoes, teamed up with actor Shelley Hartle to present, to an audience at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, 55 little masterpieces in the short, short story genre. In this, the eighth such contest, island writers tackled subjects both serious and funny. Spencer and Hartle brought their thespian talents and impeccable sense of timing to each and every one, reading the texts aloud, as imaginative “book covers” were projected on a screen behind them.

Judges were briefly introduced and then sequestered in order to avoid the temptation to offer, or accept, bribes. Cash prizes were awarded to the three winning stories, although Spencer did not cross the stage to present them to the recipients because “my shoes hurt too much to walk in.”

Volumes one and two of Spencer’s own short stories were on sale in the lobby, providing writers with inspiration in plenty of time for next year’s contest. Spencer warned against plagiarizing stories out of his books and submitting them under another name. “My memory is not as bad as people think,” he said. “Well, you might get away with it if you lifted a story from volume one. I wrote that a while ago.”

The winners of the 2015 Short Story Smash, along with their winning stories, are:

First Place:

Book cover for "The Singers"  (image courtesy of Short Story Smash artists)

Book cover for The Singers (image courtesy of Short Story Smash artists)

The Singers by Natalie Olsen

I should have known better. My daughter and her choir friend were ten when I took them to see the movie “Look Who’s Talking.”

The theater was packed, but we managed to find three seats together and I quickly understood the reasoning behind the PG-13 rating. When Kirstie Alley’s character confided about her failed birth-control, I heard my daughter’s loud whisper, “What’s a diaphragm?” then muffled laughter in the rows behind.

“You know. We use them all the time.” It was suddenly quiet.

I held my breath until I heard, “You dummy, it’s what we breathe with when we sing!”


Second Place:

Book cover for How Much Is a Penny Worth? (image courtesy of Short Story Smash artists)

Book cover for How Much Is a Penny Worth? (image courtesy of Short Story Smash artists)

How Much is a Penny Worth? by Elizabeth Booth

I found a penny once as a child. Daddy laughed and said, “Put it in your shoe for good luck.” When I was older, he told me to throw it into the fountain. “Make a wish!” When I was older still, he advised me to put it into the bank. “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Last year, I tiptoed into his room and pressed a penny into his still, paper-thin hand. With our fingers entwined, wrapped around that insignificant piece of copper, he smiled and whispered, “This is me, watching over you.” How much is a penny worth?


Third Place:

Book cover for Adventures in Laundry (image courtesy of Short Story Smash artists)

Book cover for Adventures in Laundry (image courtesy of Short Story Smash artists)

Adventures in Laundry by Linda Russell

“Four seconds,” my sister shouted as our cat landed on a pile of sheets at the bottom of the laundry chute. My father had given us a stopwatch, and we began timing everything: in this case, how long it took a cat to descend to the basement via the laundry chute.

My little brother observed this activity with interest. “I wonder,” my sister mused as we headed upstairs again—brother in tow.

“Would you like to take a trip?” I asked opening the laundry chute.

“Lunch time! Get your brother!” my mother called.

“He’ll be right down!” my sister answered.

Honorable Mention:

The Ferry Mouse by David Anderson

OK, I was just minding my own business 120 miles east of here. Last July, this terrifying hay machine rips me away from my extensive family, bundles me up, trucks me over here, rolls on this boat. I wiggled out and jumped off.

It’s not a bad life, lots of nibble bits. No cats. But now I’m living on a boat that never seems to get anywhere; back and forth all day. Cars roll on, cars roll off. I don‘t get the point. It’s a real existential dilemma. Damn. Time to get to my bolt hole. Here they come again.


Honorable Mention:

Cops and Joggers by Shelly Miller

Blue lights and a bullhorn pierced the pre-dawn peace. “Jogger, pull over and stop.”

Plucking out my ear-buds, I asked. “You talkin’ to me?”

Out of his cruiser he gave me his best grizzled, tough-guy look. “Jogger, between dusk and dawn it’s the law you run opposite traffic flow.”


“Jogger,” he started, then stopped. “What’s that?”

“It’s a Craftsman flathead screwdriver. Why?”

Officer Self-Important studied me like an undiagnosed mental disease.

“Why the shop-tool while running?”

“Protection. I’m scared of the dark.”

“If you’re so afraid, why the headphones?”

Duh, “I don’t wanna hear someone sneaking up on me!”


Read more about the 100 Short Story Smash from this feature preceding this event:

Or from one participant’s account in Les McCarthy’s blog this week:


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