SHort Prose COntest 2019 winner:
the best present ever
by Daniel garcia
Complete the blanks for the young boy’s holiday vacation by following the steps below.
1. Choose an intense emotion.
2. Choose a synonym for mistreatment.
3. Choose an age a fifth grader would have.
4. Choose a well-known city in northeastern America.
5. Choose a well-known holiday in winter.
6. Choose a bright color often seen in the sky.
7. Choose an adjective.
8. Choose a verb relating to motion that ends in -ing.
9. Choose a synonym for signaling [at something] in past tense.
10. Choose a verb relating to motion.
11. Choose an aircraft made of metal that can exist or travel outside of Earth.
12. Choose a facial expression related to arrogance.
13. Choose an adjective.
14. Choose a synonym for pull in past tense.
15. Choose a noun used as both an entrance and exit.
16. Choose a transitive verb in past tense.
17. Choose an -ing verb that correlates to human responses to temperature.
18. Choose a synonym for nothingness.
19. Choose a homophobic slur.
20. Choose a tender emotion.
All the ____1____ I have for men begins with ____2____: when I was ____3____, my brother and I went to ____4____ just before the end of the year for ____5____. It wasn’t cold that day we went into the city, but I remember all the icy skyscrapers with the ____6____ rays of the ____7____ sun ____8____ off their metal faces. I don’t remember what my brother and I were doing that day, but we waited on the sidewalk as our dad ____9____ a cab, and I ____10____ around my brother in circles while he smiled as I waved my arms like a ____11____.
The last thing I remember before the launch was the supernova behind my brother and me: our dad, furious and mocking me for the way I’d been playing. He flapped his arms and did a sloppy dance, telling me I looked like a little leaf moving like that, a ____12____ pulling at his mouth. Then, a ____13____ star of a hand hurtled toward my face, knocking me off my axis. As soon as it collided, he ____14____ me to him by my ear. With one, he opened the cab ____15____, and the other he ____16____ his fingers into my hair. He pulled me up, and then I achieved liftoff.
After the crash, I didn’t cry because it wouldn’t have made a difference. It’s too cold in outer space for tears. Not cold like ____17____, but cold like ____18____. Instead, I huddled into my myself; a silent litany of not here until I was flying again, watching myself from above, until nothing could touch me, nobody could hurt me. There’s a million ways to call a boy a ____19____, all of them beginning with a man’s fists. I know now: this is how men ____20____.
Daniel Garcia’s work appears or is forthcoming in Crab Fat Magazine, SLICE, The Offing, Denver Quarterly, Bat City Review and elsewhere. A semifinalist for the Frank McCourt Memoir Prize, Daniel is a recipient of the Myong Cha Son Haiku Award, a Rustbelt Poetry Slam Champion, and the 1st Place Personal Essay Award at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference.