Gulf Coast: The Barthelme Prize for Short Prose
Gulf Coast is now accepting entries for the 2016 Barthelme Prize for Short Prose. The contest is open to pieces of prose poetry, flash fiction, and micro-essays of 500 words or fewer. Submit online or by mail. Click for the complete guidelines.
Established in 2008, the contest awards its winner $1,000 and publication in the journal. Two honorable mentions will also appear in issue 29.2, due out in April 2017, and all entries will be considered for paid publication on our website as Online Exclusives. The entry fee includes a one-year subscription to Gulf Coast.
2016 Barthelme Prize Judge Jim Shepard has written seven novels, including The Book of Aron, published in 2015, which won the Sophie Brody Medal for Excellence in Jewish Literature and the PEN/New England Award for Fiction, and four story collections, including Like You'd Understand, Anyway, a finalist for the National Book Award and Story Prize winner. His previous novel, Project X, won the Library of Congress/Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction as well as the ALEX Award from the American Library Association. His short fiction has appeared in, among other magazines, Harper's, McSweeney's, The Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope: All-Story, Playboy, and Electric Literature. He's won a Guggenheim Fellowship, five of his stories have been chosen for The Best American Short Stories, two for The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, and one for a Pushcart Prize. He teaches creative writing and film at Williams College.
Please enjoy this story by Hugh Behm-Steinberg, winner of the 2015 Barthelme Prize.
You're in love; it's great, you swipe on your phone and order: the next day a Taylor Swift clone shows up at your house. It's not awkward, it's everything you want. She knows all her songs, and she sings them just for you. When you put your Taylor Swift to bed (early, you got a big day tomorrow) you peek over the fence into the Rosenblatt's yard, and the lights are blazing. Your best friend Tina has three Taylor Swifts swimming in her pool. She has a miniature Taylor Swift she keeps on a perch, a Taylor Swift with wings, you're so jealous. She's not even paying attention to them, she's too busy having sex with her other Taylor Swifts, they're so fucking loud it's disgusting. You hate Taylor Swift.
So you wake up your Taylor Swift and put her to work doing your chores. Why are you being so mean to me she asks you, but you won't look her in the eye. Instead you ask your mom for an advance on your allowance now that all the chores are done, and with the money you get three more Taylor Swifts. When they arrive you make them do nothing but cardio and kickboxing training for weeks on end. And steroids. They look all sweaty and hard and sexy but, unlike some people, you know all about delayed gratification. You make your Taylor Swifts sleep in separate crates.
You call your best friend Tina and say wouldn't it be great to have a Taylor Swift party? We could bring all our Taylor Swifts, drink Diet Pepsi and smoke pot. Tina says that sounds like fun; let's do it this weekend, my parents will be gone all weekend.
Saturday, you let one of your pumped up quivering Taylor Swifts ring the doorbell and who answers but Taylor Swift. Come on in, we're all by the pool. By the pool all of Tina's Taylor Swifts are naked, getting tan, they all look so sweet and lazy. They're drinking Diet Pepsi while Tina is lighting an apple bong. So, she says, passing you the apple, what shall we do with all these Taylor Swifts?
You look at her, she's just glowing, you've never wanted to be with anyone else but her in your entire life. And there goes your plan to have all your Taylor Swifts beat the crap out of all her Taylor Swifts. Let's go to your room, you tell her. There's something I want to show you.
A little later, the Taylor Swifts smile as they hear the two of you. The one with wings stretches and practices her nightingale routine. She knows that one day the real Taylor Swift will see the videos she uploaded, and the videos will be so beautiful, so perfect, that the real Taylor Swift will send her limo driver to pick her up and take her to the real Taylor Swift's tower in New York City, where at last she too will be loved.