The challenge was to write a story about a person or community that’s under an inch tall.

So, you’re going to notice that Pete and I are all over the place once again.  I agonized over the decisions for several times longer than usual (I say this in the most literal sense) and still don’t know if I’m satisfied.  Last week was tough, but this was tougher.  I sincerely hope that people are writing for themselves and are learning and getting something out of this regardless of their scores, because it’s never, ever been this tough to score this game for me.

There were a crap-ton of eye-rolls this week, most of them of the positive variety.  Prepare yourselves, though.  Puns abound.  Former Survivor player Dave Johnson would be in hell.

Oh, and finally, I’ve found a solution to the “I want to read them anonymously, but scrolling sucks” issue.  The names are right after each number, but they’re written in white.  Highlight the line with the number on it to see who wrote what.

1 Matthew Gilman

Since you’re asking, you’re probably expecting a grand adventure, overcoming odds, finding love, and all that Stuart Little crap. I’m not going into that. For one thing, it’s depressing to remember, and for another, it was mostly staged for the audience.

The sad truth is, I didn’t get paid for that show. Since I was created in The Learning Channel’s labs, they owned everything I did up till I turned 18. Technically, they owned ME. You think it’s fun being Little Thumbkin, reality show star? Try being fed with an eyedropper or sleeping in a matchbox. Fuckin’ exploitation. I was the living logical conclusion for that “little people/big world” trend, and when the ratings dipped, I got the axe. All I had to show for it was a Guinness World Record and a fear of ferrets.

So, nothing to lose, right? At my size, there are no impenetrable fortresses. Thing is, crooks leave their tools behind when the cops come. And I was their biggest, smallest tool. So here I am, locked up. Another child star cautionary tale. That’s it, end of story. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s exercise hour. I’ve got a date with the hamster wheel.

K: I just find it tough to connect with these first-person narratives that say “this is who I am.”  There’s nothing to dislike here, and I feel a little for the character, but I don’t actually get to see him in action.

P: The sad story of yet another child star turned to crime… I like the ‘fear of ferrets’ line, but that could be because I’m easy to please like that. I can absolutely see ‘Little Thumbkin’ being an 80’s sitcom star. BRONZE

2 David Larson

“Mr. Demopolous? Mr. Carter from the Vancouver Board of Labour is here to see you.”
Oscar Demopolous stubbed out his cigarette, reached into his upper left drawer for a bottle of Maalox and took a swig, then thumbed the intercom and replied, “Send him in.” He stood and greeted the man as he entered, then offered him a chair.

The investigator took his seat opposite the large desk. “I understand you were at the set during filming; tell me what happened.”

“Everybody knows the unusual story of the tiny Jankowicz’ family. It occurred to me a while back how wonderful it would be to hire them for our miniatures filming — after all, they are 1:72 scale! CGI can do wonders, but every director likes live-action shots, of course.”

“I understand this, but let’s get to the incident…”

“Yes, yes. Well, we follow the strictest safety standards and always have a fire safety officer on set. We had been filming an exciting segment for our film 2013 with explosions and falling buildings and the like. It went exactly as it was choreographed. But at the end of the day, who would have known there was a cat hanging around the trailers?!”

K: I rolled my eyes, but it was mostly in the good way.  This could feel like a stupid nudge-nudge twist but it’s foreshadowed properly. BRONZE

P: Simple gag, fun results. The idea of a director using a miniature family for model shots is funny, and a cat would totally ruin a one inch tall human’s world. BRONZE

3 Matt Novak

Randy Newman, as he did every night, polished his Grammys before retiring to bed.
The Minutians had acted quickly.  Their entire civilization was drafted and the military force set upon their voyage.  Tonight, they arrived.
Randy Newman awoke to a crash, as his awards fell to the floor.  A cadre of tiny people climbed over his bed, his nightstand, his very person!  He tried to move, but found he’d been pinned down!  A gag was forced into the composer’s mouth, and he began to feel hundreds of small pains, as soldiers jabbed him with tiny sticks.

The Minutian captain climbed atop Randy Newman’s prodigious chin and read the charges.  It all came across in a shrill, garbled din, like a high-pitched version of a Randy Newman song.  It was annoying.  All the little privates poking him didn’t help either.  Fuck, those were irritating.
A week later, Randy Newman was dead.  For thirty-five years the Minutian army had marched on their enemy.  They had dedicated their lives to their purpose, and had been triumphant. But as the glow of victory faded, the Minutians began to realize the high cost of revenge: for without it, they had no reason to live.

K: Jesus, this is absurd in all the right ways.  I chuckled throughout, as this wasn’t just a long setup to a single joke, but was loaded from beginning to end with excited, eager description. SILVER

P: So…. someone really likes Randy Newman, then? I am half tempted to send a Randy Newman CD a week to this person (burned copy, of course, I have no plans to purchase a Randy Newman CD). It’s funny and all, but it’s got not much life beyond the gag. Also, now I feel bad for the Minutians, surely there must be other wretched pop composers to skewer slowly over the course of several agonizing days? BRONZE


I grabbed him and shoved him into my pocket before anyone else could see.  I zipped it shut and yelled at my friends “I gotta go, I’ll be late for supper.”

As I jogged home, I tried to shove my hands in my coat pocket, just by instinct.  Good thing the zipper stopped me.  I didn’t want to squish that little man.

I wondered what the dude was doing there, on the park bench.  Must’ve been important, to be out where teenagers could grab him.

I saw my building and realized I had no clue what the hell I was gonna do with him.  Could I sell him? For how much?  Would a museum kill him for display?  That seemed wrong.  I then felt bad about what I’d done.

I unzipped my pocket, gently got him out, and said,  “I won’t hurt you. I want to talk.”  He stepped out on my opened hand and looked up at me.  He looked like a bug in overalls.

He jumped to the ground, shouted “Asshole!”, and ran to a crack in the pavement.

I shoved my hand in my pocket and discovered he’d taken a shit in there.  I deserved that.

K: Not bad at all.  The ending is bizarre, but somewhat fair.  The jokes don’t hit as hard as the last one, but it’s a funny anecdote. BRONZE

P: I laughed aloud at this. It’s a pretty simple gag, again, but it’s funny. The protagonist is so concerned with the “little dude’s” safety that he doesn’t seem to realize that he’s pretty much forcibly kidnapped a person. I love his calm acceptance of the little dude’s anger. Also, it feels like a Greekhouse gag, which has grown on me over the years. SILVER

5 Erik S

Since their discovery deep in a Peruvian jungle in 1932, the Morquenahua people, known for their amazingly diminutive stature, went from international sensation, to sideshow attraction, to relative afterthought.  Nowadays, they find themselves scraping by, working menial jobs alongside the rest of the general population.

Arturo secured his hazmat suit, readied his flashlight, and entered the cavern.  The floor was slipperier than usual, but Arturo had experienced worse.  He proceeded onward.

He liked working for Dr. Oh well enough.  She was fair and the pay was decent, though she could be demanding.  As a result he always did his job carefully.

Soon, he faced a smooth, conical surface at the corridor’s end.  Arturo went to work collecting samples for further analysis, focusing on one bump in the otherwise sleek façade. His work complete, he headed for the exit.

The slick, spongy floor was soon overlapped by the speculum’s firm foundation, and Arturo squinted as the light hit his eyes.

Outside of the grotto, he gave the acquired samples to Dr. Oh, acknowledged her gratitude, and went to clean up.  Again, he concluded that his job could be much worse.  His friend Homero worked down the hall at the proctologist’s office.

K: Oh, dear Jeepers.  I laughed in spite of myself – and for a good while – when I reached the first revelation.  This one demanded a second reading, which is much funnier than the first.  I love stories that do that. SILVER

P: I’ll admit, it took me a second read (it shouldn’t have… doesn’t speculum make it decently obvious?). This does seem to be ‘gag’ week, and this one works as well as many of the others. I can’t determine whether or not the foreward helps the story, or is simply extraneous. Part of me thinks that those precious words could be better served in the actual story, but it’s hard to argue with the results. BRONZE

6 Brooks Maki

Jane awoke knowing she had three sons.  They ran wildly about the living room, fighting.  Jane sighed and started the process of getting them all ready.  She cleared the unused bowl and spoon along with the boys dirty dishes and bustled the boys through the morning routine.

Herding the boys ahead of her, Jane found herself reflexively ducking under every overhang.  It was ridiculous, the overhangs had been carved exactly one inch off the ground, and she had reached her nameday without even needing to be Measured.  Still, every time an overhang passed easily over her head, she imagined the sickening thwack of forehead on stone, and ducked once more.

Hedwig, the First Measurer, waited for her and her family.  His Inchmen neatly separated her from her boys while they were Measured.  She tried to wither the nearest Inchman with a look. When that failed, she stomped on his foot.  Hedwig and the angry Inchman limped away.  “See you tomorrow!” Hedwig called.

The mocking in his eyes jogged her memory.  Her oldest son looking back for his three brothers.  Jane calling out to him to mind the overhang. Too late.  That sound was the sound in her head all morning.

K: “Hedwig and the angry Inchman”…oh, you.  This is probably too much work to get to that crack, but I smiled at this. BRONZE

P: Part of me wants to roll my eyes at the “Hedwig” pun, but it’s done so damned well. This one gives me the entire village of inch tall people that I was really hoping for, and the little details like the overhangs and meticulous measuring men. GOLD

7 Sarah Johnson

“That’s a lunchbox. And I swear to Christ that’s a timecard.” Jim studied a minute pneumatic drill.

“You’re right, Ron. And those are lag bolts. They’re building something, sure as shit.” I cracked a beer.

Jim magnified a tiny pair of Cat boots. “Not even a sound?” The crew, so to speak, was nowhere to be seen.

“Nope. These guys must be union, vanishing like this.” We laughed self-consciously. We’d skipped work to investigate.

“Hell. When’d this start up again, Ronnie? Wednesday?” I shrugged, pointing to the sized Makita. “Yep. Found that one there in the shower drain. Hope the guy didn’t drown!” I would have killed for a Makita – in my size, of course. “Imagine that, Ronnie. How the hell did they plug that in?”

I found a 3mm hammer and a half-eaten sandwich – meatball, I think – on my kitchen counter this morning. Ronnie found a half-smoked joint with a handheld microscope. It was next to a hardhat in my crisper.

We haven’t figured out what they’re building. We will – and when we do, we’ll ask them what the hell they’re using for power.

K: Huh.  I really like this story and want to read more, but not necessarily in the good way.  I feel like the ending is missing here, as I figured the final revelation would be what the tiny people were doing.  I loved the narrative voice and wish there could be more. SILVER

P: This is great. The befuddlement of the workers isn’t because they’ve got a miniature race of humanoids living at their worksite, it’s that they have no idea what exactly is going on. If they were shocked at the possibility of little folk, it would be good. That they’re wondering about the logistics of powering the tools is even better. GOLD

8 Ian Pratt

It took patience, and it exerted him to the point of exhaustion, but Robert climbed across the keys and stamped out the words.

“do u hve pics i wnt 2 c u”

He crouched down on the Enter key and waited for an answer.

“hmm… maybe I’m not ready to show you my face… ;-)”

Robert took a deep breath before embarking on his next message.

“k but I bet ur vry prtty”

The next reply came quickly.

“you first… ;-)”

Robert sighed. He clambered over to the mouse and stomped on the right button. Insert, photo from file, me.jpg. He wiped the sweat from his brow as his conversation partner typed.

“I don’t see anything… are you invisible? ;-)”

“look dwn, by spcebar”

In the picture, Robert stood proudly, nakedly, smilingly, one-inch-tallingly on the keyboard.

“I don’t understand… is this a joke? :-(”

Robert rolled his eyes and trudged over to his thimble to get a much-needed drink of water. He ran through a number of potential responses as he drank. Still overheated, he dunked his entire head in the water, forcing the breath from his lungs in a wee stream of bubbles.

K: This is an awfully sweet little story in what I figured would be a difficult week to avoid the purely comic.  I’m not saying a story has to defy expectations to be good, but this relied more on character than on comedy, and both parts worked. GOLD

P: I do like the pragmatic internet shorthand (it would be exhausting to spell out the word “you”, after all). I find the gag funny, but wonder if the little dude (to borrow the terminology from another story) is so pragmatic, why doesn’t he have a better idea than sending an actual picture? Small quibbile aside, I admit, this does work. SILVER

9 Dean Carlson

Ode to Nibs

Snugly encased in their pink crinkly bag, each licorice-flavored bit awaits tantalizing my tongue with its tart, sugary essence.  Grasping the bag to tear it apart and void its contents on my table top, I eagerly anticipate the virtual explosion of artificially produced cherriness and pop each Nib individually into my awaiting mouth.  Chewy enough to resist the original impact of my chomping teeth, the Nibs succumb and explode throughout my mouth:  resting on my tongue, lodging in my molars, cascading down my throat to my acid-filled stomach. I count each tiny morsel as they are consumed, 39… 40… 41… until finally, the last remaining Nib, clinging to its protective plastic bag, falls into my awaiting palm only to be reluctantly placed into my mouth; meeting the same fate as its fallen cohorts.  Luckily I purchased a second one ounce bag.

K: I smirked at the inside joke, though only the last line had anything to do with the concept.  And without it, it’s just a tale of how good Nibs are.  True, but not much of a story.

P: I’m slightly unnerved by this entry. So… uh………next?

10 Joseph Rakstad

I wake up feeling disoriented.  I try to remember where I am?  Oh yeah… my bunk… the barracks.  I try to remember the events of the previous night.  Childs brought me a report.  It was foggy.  No, not just my memory, the base was foggy.  The report said the enemy had acted.  But what did he do?  Why is everything in a haze.  Gah!  Too many puns.  Need to get out.

I walk outside and the first thing I notice is the eastern forest.  You can’t not notice it.  What the hell.  I run back to my bunk.  Where’s that damn report?  Was this the “secret weapon” that had been rumored for months?  I rifled through my desk to find the report.  I knew I should’ve cleaned things up.

I freeze.  What is that noise?

The buzz grows louder, and I see it all come into focus.  The shrink ray is a reality, and the evil Dr. What has made his move.  I get to my laptop and hope it can still get out an email signal before the bugs hit.  There’s only one man who can save u– SQUISH!

K: I like the atmosphere, though when the narrator says “too many puns” I was thinking “well, the puns were barely puns at all.”  I have to admit I’m surprised this is the first story that’s squished the protagonist…though I wish “SQUISH” hadn’t been written out.

P: Huh. I was with you up until the shrink ray part. For some reason, that twist just didn’t get me. Also, I now know what Beau means about sound effects when they’re written out. The dashes would’ve implied the fate, and the ‘Squish’ doesn’t add a lot.

11 Eric Schapp

Roger and Todd stood on one side; Marve and Sandy on the other. Everyone wanted some of that glorious nectar, but the sizeists at the Lone Dove only serve it in pints. After the arduous climb to the bar top, none of fair folk really wanted to take charge. Weary after their journey, ideas were few. Roger and Todd just started pushing.

The glass barely moved. But it was something.

They pushed in alternating turns, staring at the others through amber hues. Eventually there was movement, and with each teeter the goal came closer. But the plan was flawed; they all finally recognized it. When the glass came crashing down it would almost certainly crush two. It was now a matter of survival. Harder and harder they pushed out of fear, not knowing if they would make it out of the bar.

Just when it looked like Roger and Todd were about the give up, they all took to the air. Grabbed my the barkeep, it looked as though they were saved and might finally quench their thirst. The glass settled as the barkeep dropped them inside. He walked away muttering to himself.

They drowned in their sorrows.

K: This is the complete opposite of the others: I was really into the setup, and the payoff was just okay.  I actually prefer that, I think, because it suggests I was connecting to the story.  The suspense of who would get crushed actually interested me.  “Sizeists” was amusing.  I wish there had been a whole story on that concept. BRONZE

P: Why is the barkeep murdering little folk? I don’t think I’d drop someone in a pint of ale simply for being an inch tall human. The wordplay of drowning in their sorrows is clever, but I”m having a tough time connecting with the last bit of the story.

12 Bret Highum

August 28, 1904
Journal of E.D.

While I was contemplating the African sunrise over my tea, I was rudely interrupted by a few dozen tribesmen with two bound captives.  Haltingly, the chieftain asked for my judgment of his two prisoners.

I cast my gaze upon the accused- a tall man and a statuesque female.  Both were clean-limbed and bore the ritual tattoos that I stipulated for the tribes.  The male glowered at me, full of rage.  The female cowered from me in fear.

A measurement of the female was enough.  Her height was 1 1/8th inches.  This simply would not do.  The male was even taller.  I thanked the chief and rewarded his little gang with a tea biscuit.

I retreated to my laboratory with the offenders.  I recorded their tattoo designations and verified their lineage before placing them into the euthanasia chamber.   I am most eager to proceed, but I decided to document today’s events before the autops—

Constabulary Report

Edvard Dahl was found dead in locked chambers.  Some blood had issued from his right ear.  No other injury was found.  No weapon was found.  With no discernible evidence of foul play, the death has been ruled accidental.

K: Heh heh…they’re so tall!  Stories told with this journal style don’t often come together and read as stories, but this one does.  Humor, intrigue, and a big payoff.  Well done. GOLD

P: I like the wording of this whole thing, and the fact that it’s a letter does give it a certain separation from a lot of the rest of the entries. That the bastard appears to have gotten what he deserved only makes the whole thing that much sweeter. SILVER

13 Andrew M

They weren’t meant to be shrunken so small.  An intern misplaced a
decimal point in the machine’s code, and none of the senior scientists
caught it.  Everyone involved with the project, save one, was fired
and the equipment was destroyed.  The only scientist left was charged
with caring for his shrunken colleagues.

The thickness of the volunteers’ skin had been transmogrified to half
the thickness of a standard human hair.  Grains of sand were now the
relative size of a shell from a Howitzer, so airborne particles had to
be entirely removed from their environment. They now lived in a
triple-HEPA filtered plexiglass box that their colleague dubbed “The

Communication with the volunteers was difficult.  They could not speak
to their colleague as their shortened vocal cords produced sound at an
inaudible pitch.  A standard human voice was the sonic equivalent of a
earthquake to the volunteers.

Over time, the volunteers were seen less and less as people by their
colleague.  Physically separated by layers of acrylic glass and able
to communicate only via system of buttons and lights, the volunteers
became nothing more than lab rats. Slowly and irreversibly, the
volunteers ceased to be human.

K: This idea is in stark contrast with nearly every other story, and that’s fantastic.  Unfortunately, it reads a little like a textbook.  I read this more times than any of them in an attempt to connect with it emotionally, but that impact just wasn’t to be found without a character I could get into.  I feel rotten about it, because this is pretty nice writing. BRONZE

P: The writer tries for something more than a gag here, and scores. Really, it’s nothing more than a rundown of what would happen in the unfortunate event that actual humans were miniaturized, but it comes away feeling like more than that. Until the last paragraph, it’s a failed science experiment, it’s that last paragraph that ties it all together. Once the people can’t be related to on any meaningful level, they cease to be human to their observers. GOLD

14 Cathy Wells

“Alright men, you’ve spent your lives preparing for this moment and it’s time to show the world what you’re made of.  You’ve worked hard, you’ve trained harder and I’m proud to say that you’re the best looking bunch of sperm I’ve ever seen.  You are formidable and I am sure that one of you has what it takes to endure the long journey and break down that wall.  Remember that.  It just takes one.  So godspeed to you.  May your tail be strong and your head be hard.  I know you can do it!”  The troops erupted with thunderous applause and the room was abuzz with excitement.  Sergeant Johnson took a deep breath and surveyed his platoon.  He was envious of the men.  He was too old for the mission but, as a spermlet, he’d dreamed of taking it on.   He now lacked the strength to even make it to the end of the Directional Indicator Calculation Keep much less the journey itself.  No, he now puts all his hopes in his men and now it was all up to them.
The ground began to shake and the walls started closing in as the hanger doors opened.  “CHARGE!”

K: I kind of hate you, whoever you are, but I enjoyed myself.  Spermlet.  Sergeant Johnson.  D.I.C.K.  It’s all completely stupid, of course, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do, and it has an eagerness and commitment to its joke that some of the other jokes – even better ones, in theory – didn’t have. GOLD

P: I’m sort of surprised that no one else did a take on anthropomorphizing something. Granted, I don’t know that I would’ve picked sperm as the target of such a story, but here we are. It’s not exactly subtle, but it’s still worth a grin. BRONZE

15 Shawn Ashley



“You’re so tall.”

“You’re so…not.”

Abraham looked through the glass into the gigantic world of the outsider. “What do you do out there?”

The giant’s name, who Abraham will never find out later, is Brett, shrugged his enormous shoulders. “I dunno…what do you do in there?”

Abraham shrugged too. “I dunno.”

Brett laughed. “Just be tiny.”

Abraham’s face grew hot. “Well, you’re just BIG!!”

Brett laughed and when he did it sent Abraham’s whole town shaking inside the glass case.

Brett had gotten this little toy town for his fifth birthday, complete with a little family. Now Brett was thirteen and never played with them anymore. What he never knew before today was that Abraham and his family were real. And only an inch tall. They had sat in the back of the closet now for years, although they didn’t know they were in a closet. They just assumed that the sun had gone away from them. So they built fires for light, but they also had light in their little toy house.

Today was cleaning day at Brett’s house and his mom had pulled the little glass case with the little town inside, out to organize the closet. She even mentioned to Brett her thoughts of throwing the town. So he had to take one last look.

And peered in at Abraham.

He peered back.

“My mom’s going to give you away today.” Brett said, quietly.

“To where?” Abraham asked with alarm.

“Not really sure. Maybe we will sell you at our garage sale.” Brett smiled. “You might go to someone who will play with you!”

Abraham didn’t want to be played with. He wanted he and his family to be left alone.

All of a sudden there was a large crash and even louder hoof-like noises. Abraham turned just in time to see a large beast coming straight for him and then the booming voice of Brett and then he was falling, falling…crashing…glass all around him…the screams of his family filled his ears.

The last thing he saw was a large hairy foot coming fast onto his head and Brett’s shrieking voice yelling, “Buster, no!!!!!!”

Then all was quiet. Abraham heard no more.

K: And we bookend with meddling pets.  Damn them.  Anyway, I really got into this, in an “Indian in the Cupboard” sort of way.  There’s an inherent humor to this, because with a tiny family there has to be, but the focus on the family’s survival was a nice touch.  I really was let down by the ending, though.  A third party coming in left me feeling that I’d been robbed of the true ending, for bad or for good. EDIT: This has been disqualified for running nearly twice the word limit.

P: The dialog here is nice, and feels genuine enough. It doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for the story to be expanded upon, but that’s the sacrifice you make, and the author works it out well enough. The whole thing is sort of an ‘Indian in the Cupboard’ gone horribly wrong. The ending, therefore, feels a little jarring. It seems as though there should be something to this story beyond “the dog got ’em”.


Colin sends me email: “Wish I could have submitted. I’ll turn it in when I get down from the mountains on sunday. No internet until then.”

Argh.  Looks like 100% participation won’t happen anytime soon.  Colin, who’d just stormed up the standings, loses five points here.

My apologies to anyone who didn’t score highly, really, because more than ever I feel like a different day could have a huge impact on scoring.  Comedy will do that, though.  It’s harder to write, harder to judge and harder to define than drama.

Nobody double-golded this week, but cheers to Sarah, Ian and Bret for eight-point weeks.

Next time, your challenge – once again with a limit of 300 words – is to write a story about a character (or group) who is/are at the halfway point of a large goal.  I had this very vague idea while walking around to day at work, and decided I really wanted to see what people came up with for this.

Be well, Prosers.