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.