As part of our event, A Night Together, which was co-presented with Tin House and Flavorpill on April 6, we held a contest to give writers the chance to win an opportunity to read on stage with Sam Lipsyte. Entrants of the contest, The Jump Off, were asked to submit a fictional work of 300 words or less using as a jump-off point one sentence or sentence fragment from Sam Lipsyte’s novel The Ask. We got many compelling and varied stories that gave the words of Sam Lipsyte good and virgin context. From this fruitful lot four stories were selected to be read on stage at A Night Together. The “Sam Lipsyte Players” were Lincoln Michel, Maureen Miller, Shya Scanlon and Snowden Wright. While not everyone got the opportunity to read on stage, we want to honor here not only the Players but also the four finalists of the contest. Those are Mark Edmund Doten, John Madera, Franklin Winslow and A. Wolfe. Below, we’ve reprinted the work of the Players and the finalists of The Jump Off. We’d also like to thank again all the writers who entered. We read a lot of fantastic work. Enjoy.
UNTITLED, lincoln michel
“It’s when they stop trying to destroy you,” my mother said, “that you should really start to worry.”
My mother had one arm hooked around my neck, smothering me against the same breasts that once milked my mouth. The other swung at me with a mechanical can opener.
“Stop,” I yelled. “I get your point!”
She stuffed her forearm in my mouth as a gag, but I still had strength in my jaws.
“Goddamn,” she said. “I spent nine months squeezing you out and this is my thanks?”
We were struggling by my childhood picnic table. My mother picked up a drumstick and sadly sucked off the meat.
“I’m sorry ma. It was just a reflex.”
A few bright tears walked down her face. She turned away from me.
“I wasn’t even supposed to do this, it was your father’s job.”
“That man never taught me nothing,” I said. “Not even how to bean a ball into a glove. “
“He was a good man,” she said in a low voice.
“Where the hell is that bastard anyway? That devil!” I shouted.
My mother was weeping now, rolling in the yard between the crooked bodies of my brothers.
“Gone!” she cried. “Died in the waning-days of the war!”
The war! The whole enterprise had slipped my mind. I snatched up my hat and rifle, then offered her one final shot.
“It’s someone else’s turn,” she said.
I got on the train and blew a kiss to my old town. It was going straight to the front lines. I wasn’t sure where or who we were fighting, but I had to plaster ‘em all anyway, find my purpose in the muck. This train was going to take me to where would make me a man. The trip took many, many years.