Call me Ishmael, inasmuch as I represent man’s eternal state of alienation. My boss, Ahab — bang! crash! aughh! — is battling to the death an implacable foe, inasmuch as he represents man’s powerlessness against nature and fear of confronting his inner demons — namely, that he’s secretly a vampire, inasmuch as we have to sell books. Suck. Die.
This week we “honor” the annual 55 Fiction contest sponsored by New Times magazine — for stories of 55 words or fewer — with our own version, cleverly distinguished by a vastly different number of words and a couple of other requirements. This week: Write a humorous story in exactly 56 words, as in the example above by Style Invitational Literary Flunky Gene Weingarten; two words joined by a hyphen count as two words. You can add a title; it won’t count toward the 56 words. It doesn’t have to be fiction, but it has to tell some sort of story (though as you can see from the example, this might be loosely interpreted; actually, don’t turn this into a contest to sum up a well-known work of literature in 56 words). This contest was suggested by Ted Weitzman, a veteran Loser who used to be credited as Paul Styrene, back before we had the no-pseudonyms rule.
Winner gets the Inker, the official Style Invitational trophy. Second prize receives this excellent and obviously appropriate little metal sign, discourtesy of Loser Nan Reiner. It’s about the size of a light switchplate.
Other runners-up win their choice of a coveted Style Invitational Loser T-shirt or yearned-for Loser Mug. Honorable mentions get a lusted-after Loser magnet. First Offenders get a smelly tree-shaped air “freshener” (FirStink for their first ink). E-mail entries to firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to 202-334-4312. Deadline is Monday, Aug. 29; results published Sept. 18 (Sept. 16 online). No more than 25 entries per entrant per week. Include “Week 933” in your e-mail subject line, or it may be ignored as spam. Include your real name, postal address and phone number with your entry. See contest rules and guidelines at washingtonpost.com/styleinvitational. The revised title for next week’s results is by Kevin Dopart; the honorable-mentions subhead is by Gary Crockett.
Report from Week 929: Just sit right back
in which we asked you to write a song that told about a TV show, much as the “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Brady Bunch” themes do. Click on the title of the original song being parodied to listen to the tune.
The winner of the Inker
“Kate Plus 8”
(sung to the “Brady Bunch” theme)
Here’s the story of a girl named Katie,
Who was poor and living in a trailer park.
All she wanted in her life was to be wealthy;
On this she would embark.
It’s the story of a man so shady
He would happily exploit his kids and wife.
These two kindred spirits met and formed a couple,
And so began their life.
They went out and got a multiple conception,
And resolved to get some bucks for their big bang,
So they whelped and then they hawked their cute sextuplets:
That’s the way they all became the Gosselin Gang. (The Gosselin Gang, the Gosselin Gang . . . )
But this fouled-up family couldn’t last forever:
Jon was restless, and his wife was quite the shrew.
When she caught him in the sack with other women,
The Gosselin Gang was through.
But the lady wasn’t gonna give up easy.
On the gravy train she’d labored to create.
She convinced the TV folks to keep it going:
That’s the way they turned it into “Kate Plus Eight.”
(Nan Reiner, Alexandria, Va.)
2. Winner of the Lunch Bugs sandwich bags with theft-deterring bugs on them:
A PBS Evening (to “Wonderful World” (“Don’t know much about history . . . ”)
The invasion of Normandy;
Specials on seismology;
Shows to help you make a greener house;
A performance of “Die Fledermaus.”
No one else has the shows we do,
Yeah, but first we want to hear from you,
So we need you to pick up the phone.
It’s not easy here at PBS;
Ledger sheets are an awful mess.
Big-name sponsors are cutting back;
It’s been tough to stay in the black.
So the way we keep the lights turned on
Is a nonstop cajole-athon,
And we need you to pick up the phone.
Well, pledge campaigns instead of commercials
Seemed an even trade,
But lately we’re holding them 24-7,
Just to see the bills are paid. . .
You can see we’re not getting rich;
Viewers hate our bait-and-switch.
You just want the shows we said we’d air –
Moving coffee mugs will get us there.
If you deadbeats don’t send the dough,
Cookie Monster has to be let go,
So we need you to pick up the phone.
(Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)
3. “CSI” (to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”)
It’s a beautiful day for an autopsy!
Let’s cut this guy open so we can see
His intestines . . . and his liver.
Then let’s open his stomach, what do you say?
To see what he had with that chardonnay.
Would you hand me . . . that skull chisel?
I have always wanted to take a closer look inside,