The winner of our second annual Short Story contest is Heartbreak and Enter, by Karen Zunder. Her short story is a humorous tale of jilted love and revenge, where an Oprah devotee channels anger and commits a B & E in order to exact the “right” kind of vengeance. Karen Zunder grew up in Ottawa and is a graduate of Boston University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She is a graphic designer, writer, wife, and mother of three who lives in Ottawa’s west end. We have included an excerpt of her story below.
The runner-up is a story entitled War Bride. Jean Van Loon gives us a glimpse of a feisty widow who struggles for what she wants, but one fight may cost the bride her home. Jean Van Loon is a life-long Ottawan, a retired public servant and industry association head. Her stories have appeared in literary magazines.
Both stories will appear in full in the upcoming Summer print edition of Ottawa Magazine, which will be on newsstands as of Monday June 20, 2016. The stories, including a few honourable mentions, will appear online after the print issue is out.
We would like to thank everyone who submitted entries and we look forward to next year’s submissions.
Matt Harrison, editor
An excerpt from Heartbreak and Enter by Karen Zunder:
I blame Oprah. Well, not just Oprah, also Ellen and the ladies on The View. While I’m at it, I blame Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem too. Female empowerment. Believe in yourself. Take control. Well, I took control, which is why I now find myself in Marc’s apartment at The Regent Arms. I’ve just committed a B and E. I’ve even got the lingo down. That’s break and enter for a law-abiding citizen, which is what I used to be. Now I’m a common criminal. No one will believe it. I’m level-headed. Responsible. I don’t do crazy-ass stuff like cook pet rabbits on the stove. I’m a nice girl. Really!
I’ve never been vindictive. Even when my high school sweetheart made out with a chesty redhead under the bleachers at a football game between the Hillcrest Hawks and St. Pat’s Fighting Irish, I didn’t take revenge. I simply broke up with him — clean and simple. Secretly, though, I wished they would each contract a virulent case of herpes.
Now I’m standing in a spacious foyer with glistening marble floors and mosaic inlays, staring at a priceless bronze Giacometti sculpture. Marc told me he knew nothing about art. Nothing! He let me ramble on when we went to the museum. And how I rambled. As a junior cataloguer for Christie’s auction house, my love for art history came flooding out. I was thrilled to have an eager audience. We discussed the Italian Renaissance, and I pointed out Titian’s mastery of chiaroscuro, the use of contrasting light to achieve a sense of volume. I delighted in explaining the aim of the Impressionists, who challenged accepted concepts of colour and light. I gushed with admiration at the rebellious Abstract Expressionists with their anti-figurative aesthetic. Marc had a restless curiosity, and he listened with genuine interest. He joked that my lip gloss matched the lipstick stain on the cigarette butt in Jackson Pollock’s painting Full Fathom Five. How cute is that? “Teach me,” he said. “I’m a blank canvas,” he said. Then I walk in (or, rather, break in) and come face to face with a Giacometti!
Marc said he had a linguistics degree and had finished law school — I had no reason to mistrust him. He told me he was subletting a modest apartment at The Regent Arms and described his typical bachelor flat. Mattress on the floor. A much-loved, lumpy armchair and an array of flea-market finds in desperate need of restoring. In the refrigerator, a lonely six-pack of Molson’s (preferring Canadian beer to its watery American counterpart) and a solidified box of baking soda, well past preserving the wilted iceberg lettuce and shrivelled wedge of cheddar. Marc said he was saving for a larger place while he studied for the New York bar exam.
Well, if this is modest, the Queen lives in a Motel 8.
I notice L’Essence de Courvoisier cognac in the liquor cabinet, a fortune at thirty-two hundred dollars a bottle. In the built-in refrigerator, I discover organic cheese, foie gras, and truffle oil. Not a leaf of lifeless lettuce to be found! He might have mentioned that he was a foodie. That he lived in a four-thousand-square-foot apartment.
That he was married.