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55 Fiction 2022: Read some of the world's shortest stories and the winners of our annual contest

A LITTLE MAGIC Pulling off a successful story in 55 words or less is almost as cool as seeing a genie flow out of a bottle. - COVER IMAGE BY LENI LITONJUA
  • Cover Image by Leni Litonjua
  • A LITTLE MAGIC Pulling off a successful story in 55 words or less is almost as cool as seeing a genie flow out of a bottle.

Every year brings a new batch of teeny, tiny stories complete with plots, details, characters, and surprise twists. Murder, love, the life of pets, commentary on current events, and cake all get encapsulated in 55 words or less. Some of our authors are first-timers, some are seasoned 55 Fiction vets, some are locals, and some are from far-flung places. This year, we also received a number of entries from Wisconsin—one English teacher's assignment to her students at Arrowhead Union High School. Out of hundreds of entries, our judges at New Times narrowed the winners down to the following stories.


The traveler marveled at the grass, the vibrant green that surged forth in the waning of winter's vigilance. He caressed the blades with weathered and stained hands.

"Here," he whispered, "I will make my home."

"Sir," a voice said above him, badge glinting in the sunlight. "This is a public park. You can't camp here."

Kip Lorenzetti

San Luis Obispo


Twelve is my lucky number.

I guess that's why I crashed on 12th Street.

And that's why I have 12 stitches to keep my ear from falling off.

I was going 12 miles per hour over the speed limit.

I assume 12 isn't the other victim's lucky number.

They died 12 minutes after the crash.

Lauren Theiler

Hartland, Wisconsin

Revoke his license

Outside, I hear a loud sound. I look to see my coworker's brand new car that just got all dented up.

"Andrew, look."

"You gotta be kidding me."

I run to the phone to call the police.


"They are driving off now." I run outside and follow them.

"Stop, Andy! That was my grandpa."

Andy Mills

Sussex, Wisconsin

Up, up, and away

Today is my sixth birthday. Today, I get six balloons. I go to the store with my mom to pick them out.

The lady fills them up. "I put extra helium in these." She smiles and winks at me.

I take them outside to the car, and suddenly I feel super light.

"Andrew!" Mom screams.

Andrew Mayhew

Hartland, Wisconsin

Virtual love

I'm a fool for love.

This man says he wants me to be his; I believe him.

My eyes hurt from blue light.

I dream about his blond hair and blue eyes.

Turning the corner of an abandoned building, I see an overweight, black-haired man.

His greasy face smiles, "You look just like your picture."

Lauren Theiler

Hartland, Wisconsin

Doing so much with so little

"Thanks for coming to this interview."

"My pleasure."

"Conversations with your former colleagues have been especially informative. They've never seen anyone so enthusiastically adept at provoking such intense outrage, fear, and hatred with so little factual basis. We've concluded that, for our political talk show host and commentator team, you'd be a perfect fit."

Steve Recchia

Reno, Nevada

Meatloaf Surprise

"Honey, I'm home!" the husband announced, walking to the kitchen.

"Just in time," the wife replied. "The meatloaf's ready."

The husband sat down at the table.

"What meat is this?" the husband asked while chewing. "I don't recognize the taste."

The wife smiled.

"Oh, you've definitely had this before. I think her name was Stephanie?"

Emily Porter

Wauconda, Illinois

You're bleeding

All of a sudden, the man's hand fell onto the carpet. He was bleeding. He glanced around frantically to see if anyone had noticed. All eyes were on his hand. "Not again!" he said as he bent over to pick it up. Now everyone knew that he had the ace of spades.

Ruthie Anya

Princeton, New Jersey

Consider Cupid

"Consider Cupid," sighed Jupiter. "Years ago Cupid forwent his bow and arrow. The hint of coercion and even violence made it impossible for its intended use. Today, Cupid uses candied hearts. Not always effectively." At the bottom of the trash can lay two hearts, "Be mine" and "Always true."

Jeff Lahr

Santa Maria

Who's next?

Survivors report that a single gunman, believed to be a disgruntled former employee, entered the production facility this afternoon, shouting about outsourcing jobs to China, and began shooting. At this time, much remains unknown, including the fatality count, any possible impacts on this year's holiday season, and the whereabouts of Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.

Steve Recchia

Reno, Nevada

Sweet for Jell-O and violence

Katrina's new boyfriend (a middleweight boxer) was a little rough, but he shared her passion for strawberry Jell-O. But last Friday night, while she was watching him flatten the nose of a hapless opponent, it occurred to her that life sometimes imitates art, and she was no longer hungry.

Ray Abney

Paso Robles

Suicide mission

Randall silently watched his emotionally troubled son hang himself. He resisted the urge to save him.

Tearfully he whispered, "Son, this time I didn't interfere," and then dialed 911 for the last time.

He spoke quietly into the phone, "This is Randall Baster," then hung up.

He waited outside for the police to arrive.

Angela F. Myrick

Odenton, Maryland

Nana's locket

His aggression struck her from behind. The chain grew tighter around her neck. An aged gold that told the history of her Nanu, now gone. Showing it off was a pleasure, she lit up when telling his stories. It was her prized possession, one that caught the eye of another.

"I'll see you soon, Nanu."

Dylan Pettinato

Island Lake, Illinois

Sweet red

Deep red drips from the knife. He plunges it back into the thick surface, cutting it open. He watches the red spill. He dips his finger into the liquid, placing it on his lips. He was surprised by the taste and how sweet it was. This, by far, had been his favorite velvet lava cake.

Alli Kruse

Sussex, Wisconsin

Bed hog

Last night I woke up between my bed and the wall. He's sprawled out across the bed, leaving me no space to lie down. I quietly grab my blanket and lie on the carpeted floor. A few hours later, I woke up to his wet snout pressed against my face.

"Good morning, Scout," I whisper.

Haylie Peterson

Sussex, Wisconsin


Book Club tonight. Marilyn made cherry pie, carrot cake, oatmeal cookies, and lavender shortbread.

Linda would eat pie. Gina, a tiny slice of pie and five cookies. Connie would say carrot cake is not cake, before eating two pieces.

Marilyn poisoned everything except the shortbread.

Marilyn loved baking. Marilyn liked shortbread. Marilyn hated Book Club.

Hope Whitehead

Grover Beach

Verbosity kills

"Your cruel indifference," she'd written.

God, she's wordy! Russel thought, his gaze drifting to the last line.

"So, I've decided to end my life ... "

The letter fluttered to the floor. He clutched his chest.

Returning for her things, Sylvia found him dead, page two still tucked inside the envelope.

" ... with you."

Diane Smith

Arroyo Grande

The parachute

Skydiving was always a dream of hers. To feel the weightlessness and the brief fear before she pulls the life-saving string. As she falls from the sky now, she wishes she could've jumped from the plane instead of being thrown from it during the crash.

She also wishes that she had a parachute.

Laynie Walloch

Hartland, Wisconsin

Twin tablets, double bed

"I haven't slept well in ages."


"How 'bout you?"

"What? Same. If you don't, I don't."

"Wait, just because I can't get any, doesn't mean you shouldn't."

"I'm ... speechless."

"Besides, you'd catch up. For you, it's easy. I need pills, darkness, lying perfectly still, praying it works."



"What're we talking about?"

Diane Smith

Arroyo Grande

A bad dream is not an omen

Three crows, the usual ones, perched and squawked in the tallest sequoia at the edge of town. There were only nine sequoia left. The crows usually jumped around town in the hottest part of the day, but today they'd found something more worthy to acknowledge. A drainage ditch skirted by wildflowers concealed a woman's body.

David Bateman


She's taking his last ticket to ride

"Thanks for the ride; I've been hitching for hours."

"You're kind of lucky—my dad told me not to pick up hitchhikers."

"He's right. For all you know, I could be a serial killer."

Her hand slowly sought the loaded revolver under her seat.

"Oh c'mon—two serial killers ending up in the same car?"

Bruce Badrigian

Morro Bay

Your family wants you back

"I was in a cult once. I lost all touch with reality. I lost my family. I escaped, and got my life back. Now I help others escape from cults."

"Why're you telling me?"

"Your family wants you back."

"I'm not in any cult, you idiot! Now get out of here! It's time for Tucker."

Steve Recchia

Reno, Nevada

Lunch time

I watched the little hippo as he swam across the warm pond. The colorful parrot swirled in the skies, and the friendly elephant waved to me with his trunk. Lurking in the corner, the fearful tiger snuck behind the silly monkey. Quickly, I scooped the tiger up and slurped him down with my chicken soup.

Nora Perugini

Hartland, Wisconsin

When zombies learn to cook

Follow the rules, my father said. When zombies learn to swim, move to the desert. When zombies learn to drive, get a fast car. When zombies learn to cook, no tacos de sesos.

Triple digits now in Borrego Springs. My IROC Camaro baking in the parking lot of Carmelita's. The carne asada tacos are delicious.

Renne Gardner

San Luis Obispo

Back in my day

People used to say good things about me.

I had so much energy. I kept this community going.


I'm expensive to take care of and expensive to get rid of.

I'm in the way. Out of touch. An eyesore.

Maybe I am.

But I've been here longer than most of you.

Respectfully, The Stacks.

Aaron Izek


A grey turned black

The cul-de-sac had grown accustomed to a gunshot or two every few months. Neighbors for decades, well-off retirees, they'd check on Ben in the morning. They knew the scenario, "He's drunk again!" He'd claim thwarting another alien abduction. Naomi's short-lived relief vanished upon entering the kitchen. Smiling, and truly triumphant, Ben pointed toward the table.

David Bateman


Stockholm syndrome

The cold cement walls stare at me. The chain hugs my ankle tight. It begins to hurt. A knock hits the door as I swing my body toward the back wall.

"Good morning, love," he says in comfort.

"I missed you."

But this time it felt like I was starting to mean it. Δ

Alli Kruse

Sussex, Wisconsin


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