Flash Fiction winner

A few years ago I entered a couple of stories in Creative Loafing’s Flash Fiction contest. One of them (about bad dudes doing bad things) I worked very hard on, writing it and rewriting it and revising it and suffering over it. Another I knocked off in a couple hours with very little, if any, revision. Guess which story won first place? Right, the one I knocked out in a couple hours. It’s called “A Slight Difference of Opinion” about a short conversation between a husband and wife. You can see the online version here. I felt like I should post some lighter fare on this site since so much of my fiction tends to be a little, uh, dark. I’m pretty sure it’s OK to cut and paste it in this blog as well. If not, I’ll get a call from a lawyer soon enough. Hope you enjoy it.

A Slight Difference of Opinion
By Vance Cariaga

Judge’s Comments: “In this story, the author manages, through primarily dialogue, to drop a very short story on the reader’s plate about two characters who are unhappy with their choice to move to Charlotte, North Carolina, from Yonkers, New York. ‘A Slight Difference of Opinion’ has all the elements of what makes a short story successful — conflict, motivation, characters who want something, but face obstacles in obtaining it. One character wants to move forward while the other character wants to move back, and this, more so than winning the contest or paying the power bill, is the driving force behind this story.”

“It’s called what again?” Seth said.

“We forgot to pay our heat bill,” Mimi said.

“It pays how much?”


“This is your plan to pay our heating bill? To win a writing contest about how we forgot to pay our heating bill?”

“It’s an option, anyway. It’s worth a try.”

“It’s an option, she says.”

“It’s worth a try, I said.”

“For this we left Yonkers? Let’s move to North Carolina, she says. They have plenty of jobs there. It’s cheap, and warm. Warm. It’s 20 degrees out there. We had the same in Yonkers.”

“We also had a small cramped apartment in Yonkers instead of a house.”

“That was not a small apartment. That apartment was okay.”

“It was small. The neighbors were loud. It smelled funny. The Metro North rattled our windows every time it came by.”

“It at least had a decent deli nearby. You can’t find a decent deli here.”

“That’s what we should base our lives on. A deli.”

“You told me before we moved, there’s good delis here. You heard it on good authority, from some old college classmate you hadn’t seen in 15 years.”

“There’s good delis here. You just don’t want to find them, because then you’d have one less thing to complain about.”

“What does somebody from North Carolina know about a deli?”

“What does somebody from Yonkers know about barbecue? But suddenly you’re an expert.”

“That dry chewy pulled pork. I can’t swallow it. And that vinegar they call sauce.”

“They had other types of sauce on the table. But you were too busy insulting the manager to notice.”

“What insult? I didn’t insult.”

“You told him they should take the meat, sew it together, and make footballs out of it.”

“Only after he told me to leave.”

“Only after you told him he should consider hiring a cook sometime.”

“And yet you insisted on paying the bill, even after he told us he didn’t want our money.”

“He told you he didn’t want your money. I had nothing to do with it. He was a nice man, and you were an ass.”

“Now I’m an ass.”

“Always, you’re an ass.”

“Oh great. Now we start into it again. And after I told you about my blood pressure. You know what the doctor said about my blood pressure.”

“The doctor said your blood pressure was slightly high. He said to reduce the stress in your life. If only he knew. Stress IS your life. Without it, you’d cease to exist.”

“Right. And what would I have to be stressed about, anyway? It’s not like I’m unemployed, and my wife is unemployed, and we’re behind on our mortgage, and we might not be able to pay our heating bill. Oh, wait a minute — that’s exactly the case.”

“I make money. I’ve had some writing jobs.”

“Some writing jobs. On a, what you call it, on a freelance basis. That pays great, as long as you can write about 400 of them a day. Did you call about that proofreading job?”

“It’s a copy editing job. And yes, I called about it. I have an interview next week. Did YOU call about that temp position?”

“Packing cell phones into boxes? You think that’s how I should spend my days? Me, who went to college, who used to make good money in technology?”

“Oh please. You sold cheap computers for a company that went bankrupt because the accountant was embezzling money from his boss, who was stealing money from his partner, who was screwing the sales manager’s wife. That was some fast-track career.”

“I don’t remember you complaining when the paychecks came in. And now I’m down to packing cell phones in boxes. All that stooping over. And after I told you about my back. You know what the doctor said about my back.”

“Your back. Your blood pressure. The cell phone job is only for a few days, then you move onto another job. The temp agency puts you into different jobs. Lots of people find full-time jobs that way.”

“It’s called what again, the name of the paper?”

“What paper? And don’t change the subject.”

“The paper with the contest. The forgot to pay the heating bill thing.”

“It’s called Creative Loafing.”

“Creative Loafing?”

“Creative Loafing.”

“What kind of screwy name is that for a newspaper? Creative Loafing.”

“Was I there when they named it? Who cares what it’s called.”

“What are you going to write about, this story that’s supposed to help us pay our heating bill?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t started it yet.”

“You haven’t started it yet?”

“I was going to start it, but you keep interrupting me.”

“So what are you going to write about?”

“Maybe I’ll write about how Seth keeps interrupting Mimi as she tries to write. Heavy on the dialogue, but thinly plotted.”

“You think I don’t got better things to do than stand around here yakking with you? I got things too, you know. I’m busy too, you know.”

“Busy doing what? Counting all the miseries in your life?”

“Calling my contacts in Yonkers. Seeing what’s available up there.”

“I’m not going back to Yonkers.”

“So you keep saying. But we’ll see, right? You write your little story about the not paying the heating bill. Meanwhile, I’ll be putting together a real plan to get our financial lives back on track.”

“Oh, the big shot. A real Warren Buffet.”

Seth walked out of the room and down the hallway toward the other side of the house. Mimi stared at her laptop. The screen was empty. The best thing in the world for a writer is an empty screen. It’s also the worst thing in the world. She had a story to write, but she had no idea where to begin.

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