Writing Contest Entries: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Bookstore/Library

On February 19th I announced a writing contest. The prompt was simple:

Prompt: In about 1000 words write a humorous short short story telling me “A funny thing that happened on the way to the bookstore/library.”

I promised to judge the entries by March 7th. The winners will receive prizes:  (1) First,  a $50 cash prize; (2) The second place winner will get a shirt of their choice from my T-shirt shop on skreened.com; (3) The most outrageous story will get a T-shirt of my choosing.

I was honored to receive three brilliant entries.  Here they are (in order of when I received them):

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Bookstore/Library…


T. Lloyd Reilly

One day a few weeks ago I found myself going to the closest venue of the Sage from Bentonville (Wal-Mart) when  I came to realize that all of my current reading opportunities have come from the small section of the store stuck in between the cigarette aisle and the “20 Items or less” cashier.  It is the feed trough of my inquiring mind.  Well, at least it used to be.

Being an academic by nature and profession, I had been studying an interesting subject most of the day prior to my sojourn to the depths of retail Nirvana.  Is there really such a thing as the Devil? On a philosophical level it has proven to be a stimulating topic and I began this study in order to reinforce my personal skepticism as to the existence of any such being.

There is no real attainable research to attest or refute the idea that a being exists that has nothing but contempt and derision for mankind.  All that is offered is the ranting’s of some believers, and the references in the bible to “That which is called Legion.”  My trip out that day was to purchase groceries and perhaps a new book, but I never imagined that I would walk into the store and encounter the very character I had been studying.

Coming out of my driveway I viewed an old woman who lives down the street from me walking with an umbrella to ward off the rain.  I stopped to see if I could give her a ride.  I had done this a number of times before and I usually looked forward to the chance opportunity to commit a random act of kindness.  The old woman always gave me a broken toothed smile, and always made sure that I was given some form of payment for my services.  Most of the time she would hand me fifty cents, as if I was operating some form of public transportation, and then go about her business when I dropped her off. This day, she handed me a pamphlet on the existence of Satan, and how to identify that being when encountered.  She told me to go back home after I dropped her off and read the brochure.  I told her that I was in need of a visit to the retail giants and would look at it upon my arrival back at my home.

She instantly started waving her hands in the air and wailed at me that the devil himself was at that store and that if I had to go there, I must stay clear of the book section.  She reached over and clutched my hand in hers and began reciting the script of an exorcism.  It took me several minutes to extract my hand out of her grip and to assure her that I would be careful.

I took the experience with a grain of salt in that this was not the first time she had exhibited a radical expression of her views to me.  I really believed that she was just a crazy old lady that I got to give a ride to from time to time.  Little did I know how much my life would change that day as a result of a momentary denial of another person’s dogma.

I got to Wal-Mart and found the items I required and was going to leave before something told me to go look at the books.  I remembered the woman’s admonishment but gave it little power.  Walking to the bookrack I noticed, standing before the religious books, Satan.  Well, at least someone dressed as the Trickster.  The red face and skin, pointy tail sticking from under the red cape, the black hair and pencil thin moustache and goatee, the red pitchfork, and the evil smile were all there, just as in all the pictures I has seen.  Staring in disbelief, I tried to push it off as someone dressed for a costume party.  Until, that is, he dropped a bible on the floor and burned it with a set of flames coming out of his eyes. Afterward, he turned to me and smiled.  He told me that he had been waiting on me, and that we should get to work.

All my life I have tried to get published as a writer.  Reading and writing had been an obsession and compulsion for as long as I could remember.  I recalled watching someone accepting a prize for writing one time and took it on as a dream.  I would win that prize one day.  This guy told me that he could give that to me…if I signed my soul over to him.

Admittedly, this seemed a too convenient cliché to me, and I scoffed at him.  He, just as I have seen in a million movies and read in as many books, pulled out a parchment with gothic writing on it with my name at the top, and next to the signature line. I took it and read it.  It was a standard agreement for services that already had a prominent “Lucifer” in script next to the seller line.

As I read the contract, I imagined my new life.  The buying of the huge house, the book signing tours, and the trophy wife I met at a reading of one of my poems, as well as all the rest of the perks of being an award winning author.  I seriously considered reaching for the quill pen when some other thoughts came to mind.  There was the IRS audit where I got arrested for fraudulent filing, the repossession of the house, the multi-raced child my wife had and sued me for child support, the big guy in the next prison cell who informed me of his intentions to change my sexual orientation, and the last glimpse of the truck that was about to run over me. I dropped the book I was looking at, left the groceries in the basket, and fled the store as soon as I could…never to return.

The devil felt a tap on his shoulder and, turning around, encountered the broken toothed smile of the old woman who had received a ride from the fleeing man.  He shook his head in disgust and said, “Ma, you have to stop doing that.  I am way behind on my monthly quota!”




Angelo B. Ancheta

Library-tripping? I was just an above-average student then in high
school but not quite up to the ranks of geniuses that I knew.
Moreover, I didn’t want anyone to see me studying hard or to be caught
deeply immersed in books. I didn’t really know why I had such an
attitude. On the contrary, however, I  I was fond of reading for
information on things that I was curious to know or find out more than
what our textbooks had to offer. I didn’t want to be called a “nerd”
for it had a bad connotation, as if it was a  social stigma. The
stereotypical nerd, easily identifiable by heavy backpacks,
dark-rimmed glasses, ‘geeky’ hair style, and seemingly alone and
quiet, could be spotted in a carrel. Everytime I visited the school
library,  I never missed spotting one or two, and mischievously I’d
greet him with a smile that was hard to place and like a fool would
laugh to the exasperation of the poor soul. Little did I know that
someday, a nerd would have his revenge.

One afternoon  break time, I went to the library and joined some
friends sitting around a small table. Instead of books, it was the
girls we focused our eyes on, surreptitiously looking at their faces
and skirts. One had a very long skirt that touched the floor, and a
foot stepping on it. We couldn’t help imagining what would happen the
moment she stand up. We were chuckling when my back started to itch.
It had itched  just before I entered the library but I just ignored
it. But that that second time, I knew something was the matter. While
my friends kept goofing around, I raised an arm to reach my back and
tapped it  lightly.  My friends jostled each other as they kept on
eyeing the other girls who were innocently minding.their businesses
without noticing they were being inspected. My back itched again so I
stood up then something crawled up my spine. I  slipped a hand into my
polo shirt and touched a soft lump. It was cold and fleshy.
Regardless, I grabbed ‘it’ and landed my hand on the table. ‘Yikes!’
It was a baby albino lizard, its skin smooth and the eyes, they
glistened as they glared at me. Interestingly I had a strange mental
association with those eyes and the geeks’ who looked at me, wide-eyed
and bewildered. My friends, on the other hand, jumped out of their
seats while I remained motionless.

The librarian heard our commotion and rushed toward me.
“What’s this noise all about? If you’re only going to talk and joke
around, you’d better leave now!’ she said, knitting her eyebrows.

“Ma’am, sorry. I’m just shocked because a lizard crept into my back.”
I was trying to narrate the story but she quickly cut in and pointed
toward the door.

The jolly team stood up and walked quietly toward the exit, glancing
at the table where I placed the lizard, which  surprisingly was no
longer there, then at the girls who were now following us with their
eyes, obviously curious to know what had happened. While my buddies’
thoughts were still on the girls, mine was at a standstill trying to
figure out how the lizard inserted itself into my polo shirt and glued
itself at my back. Did it fall from the ceiling at the library? Could
one of the nerds harbor a grudge against me, played prank and
outsmarted me? Hmmm.  I concluded that it could only have come from
outside, near the library’s entrance, just before I got in. I
inspected the ceiling outside the library, while my friends were still
laughing at me, and looked if the lizard had a company or family.
Where could it possibly come from? Was it an alien? Those beady eyes.
But the nerds, their glassy eyes, they looked alien too.

I knew those nerds. They knew I was bad so they must be having their
grand time when they heard me scream at the sight of a lizard, even if
they did not hear the full story. And how I looked desperately sharing
the story with and trying hard to convince the librarian to no avail.
I just hoped that the librarian would see the lizard. It must be still
there on the prowl for victims. But I doubted it. The librarian is a
friend of the nerds.

When I got home that night, I still thought about the albino lizard,
the way it turned its head while it was in my palm, its smoothness,
its albino skin, and the eyes, all sending me the chills. I became
conscious of lizards and waited for them to appear in our ceiling.
Only one appeared and crawled toward the hanging fluorescent lamp. It
was a different variety judging by its ash-gray color and long and
freckled tail.

When time came for me to do homework, it became too hard to focus. I
wondered if a lizard would jump on me out of nowhere.  What bothered
me more were the nerds.  It was as if the lizard represented them. A
crazy thought. It was both  both amusing and distracting.

I stood up in front of a mirror. I looked hard and closed enough to
check my eyes. If one cared to look close enough, my eye bags would
reveal that I was a book reader. And that made me a nerd of some sort

Since that incident, I never bothered picking on the nerds. My mind
couldn’t help making the association between the albino lizard and a
nerd however hard I try to get the idea out of my head. I knew my
library-tripping had ended but somehow the lizard incident put a
different spin on it.


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Library


Anita Dualeh

“It’s too far to walk. Why can’t we just take our car?” Ashton, my four-year-old, whined.

“It’s not much farther now.” I said, pushing the stroller with our one-year-old inside as Ashton tagged along behind. “Let’s keep moving so we don’t miss the bus. We don’t want to be late for story time. Besides, you like taking the bus, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” Ashton sighed, “But I’m tired. And you’re walking too fast.” This from the same boy who runs from room to room at home, bouncing around for twenty minutes at a time. Tired? I didn’t really think so. Dramatic? Without fail.

“Well, we’re taking the bus because it’s more energy-efficient. We’re thinking about selling mommy’s car, so this week we’re doing an experiment to see what it would be like to have no car while Daddy’s at work. Besides, it’s spring now. It feels good to be out for a walk, doesn’t it?”

“We can’t sell your car,” he said. I wasn’t sure I wanted to either, but economically the idea made sense.

“Hey, look at those geese flying there,” I pointed up toward them in an effort to change the subject. “What sound are they making?”

“They are honking. Honk, honk!”

“The geese are returning ‘cause it’s spring. Connor hears them too. He’s looking up to see if he can see where the sound is coming from.” We played “What Sound Does the Animal Make” the rest of the way to the bus stop. Several people had congregated there, which meant the bus was due any minute.

“Hey, what’s that clown doing over there?” Ashton pointed across the street.

“Don’t point, Ashton. It’s not polite. He’s busking,” I replied. A clown, complete with a curly red wig, white painted face, and a round plastic nose was sitting in a folding chair blowing bubbles. His ample belly filled out his clown suit. The handwritten sign propped up by his knee read, “Another Clown on Welfare.” An old hat sat as his feet for anyone so inclined to toss in a coin.

“No, he’s not bussing. He’s blowing bubbles. Can we go over there and see him?” he asked. “Conner wants to pop some bubbles.”

“No. The bus’ll be here any minute,” I said, skipping the explanation of busking for now.

“It won’t take long,” he said. “C’mon, please?”

“Look, there’s the bus over there, on the other side of the stoplight. It’s coming our way, see?”

We let everyone else file on the bus first and then clamored aboard. Ashton climbed up gripping the railing, and I was right behind him with Connor in the football hold in one arm, our collapsed stroller, book bag and bus fare in the other hand. The bus was getting full, but a smiling, middle-aged man stood up and moved so we could cram ourselves and our belongings into two adjacent seats.

“Hi, cutie,” said a perky, high-pitched voice behind us just as we were settling into the cramped space with all our things. The voice was speaking to my younger son, who decided the best way to respond was to bury his face in my chest. I turned around as she started to strike up a conversation with Ashton, who was staring at her. “Is that your little brother?” she asked.

Ashton and I both just stared. The high-pitched voice belonged to a woman who had her rather short, kinky hair pulled into pigtails. She was wearing horned rimmed glasses, a pink t-shirt that said Book Girl, a pink cape, and striped leggings. She had tied her canvas sneakers with glittery pink laces. My eyes settled on her face once I had finally taken in all the details of her ridiculous costume.

“Do you like reading?” she tried again. Ashton still hadn’t said a word, but she was asking a rhetorical question anyway. “Reading is a wonderful hobby. You can learn a lot from books.” She was preaching to the choir. On an average day we read at least three books. We go to the library weekly and a check out a dozen new books each time. But good for her if her message creates even one convert.

She handed Ashton the book A Letter to Amy by Ezra Jack Keats. “What do you say?” I prompted.

“Thank you,” he mouthed quietly.

Next, Book Girl pulled a board book version of Peter Rabbit out of her tote bag for Connor. “Here’s a book for your little brother,” she said handing it to Ashton.

“Thank you. Keep doing what you’re doing,” I said. Then she breezed past us and slid into a seat in front of young teen girl, pivoting around to begin another conversation with an unsuspecting passenger.

“Who was that, Mom?” Ashton asked.

“That was Book Girl,” I responded.

“Who is Book Girl?” he asked.

“Don’t you know Book Girl?”


“Book Girl is a superhero. Didn’t you see her cape?” I was making this up as I went. “She roams around the city passing out books to children of all ages.”

“Why does she do that?” he asked.

“Maybe it’s because she likes books. Maybe she wants to give books to children who might not have many books at home.”

“But we have a lot of books at home,” he said.

“I know, but not everyone has a nice aunt like Aunt Claire to give them so many books,” I explained. “Some children have very few books of their own.” Book Girl continued circulating around the bus as we made our way down Rice Street. The bus driver apparently chose to let Book Girl continue her work, though technically he could have asked her to stop.

We got ourselves off the bus and into the library without further incident. When we entered the story time room, we noticed the librarian was dressed as Pippi Longstocking. “What’s with all the costumes today?” I wondered.


What talent from all three! I will announce the winners here on Wednesday.

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