In this year’s Wabash Prize for Fiction, judge Rebecca Makkai awarded the top prize to the “surefooted and organic” story “Flotsam” by John Englehardt, with Jasmine Sawers’ “At the Lung” as the runner-up.
Rounding out the finalists were:
- “Spawn of Doctor Macabre” by Steve Trumpeter
- “Lost in the Flood” by Jordan Farmer
- “Prince of Nigeria” by Jacob Brower
2014 winner John Englehardt’s stories have appeared in The Stranger, Monkeybicycle, The Monarch Review, and Furlough Magazine. He received an MFA in fiction from the University of Arkansas, where he also taught creative writing. He lives and works in Seattle.
Runner-up Jasmine Sawers received her MFA from Indiana University. Though she is originally from the frozen north, she is currently living and writing in the great American midwest. Her work has appeared in Artvoice, Construction, Ploughshares, [PANK], and Fiction Attic.
The winning stories will appear in the next issue of Sycamore Review, but after the jump, we’ve included a brief preview of John Englehardt’s “Flotsam.”
The first thing I ever took was a vintage Barbie doll wrapped in plastic. I was ripping up mildewed insulation in an attic when I found her in a box the homeowner forgot to remove. I remember holding the Barbie up to the work light, and the way dust and platinum shards of insulation glimmered around her torso. I stuffed her in my jumpsuit. Later on, I took Christmas sweaters from storage bins. I stole an unopened salad spinner, civil war coins, an Irish fantasy magazine called Airgedlamh! In a crawlspace, I found a half-torn wedding photo from the 80’s with Thanks for 21 years of shit! scrawled in sharpie on the white of the bride’s dress.
In addition to stealing things, I often showed up late, hungover. I pissed in immaculate gardens. Climbed on roofs for the hell of it. I did these things mostly to distract myself, to keep from thinking about Kate. But working in the darkness of crawlspaces, basements, and attics had this way of washing up memories. One moment I’d be installing an attic ventilator, then suddenly I’d be standing in the bathroom doorway of our old apartment, watching Kate put anti-aging ointment on her face. She’d do this after sex, commando in the regal blue bathrobe my mother gave her for Christmas. Whenever she’d put that stuff on earlier, I’d know she wasn’t in the mood—but not in any passive aggressive way. We’d simply been together long enough that every action insinuated another.