1st Place – Flash 405, February 2017: “Monster”
There’s a guy selling socks on the subway. He’s calling out in a rag-tag-baritone-deadpan voice that socks are for sale, unused socks, slightly used socks, so don’t give your money to the corporations, man, give them to me, to the subway guy with the socks. You watch him hobble up and down the aisle, the edges of his pants frayed and sliding along the floor behind him, his boots hitting in step with a sticky beat, one arm dangling to his side, the other just barely holding out the socks, as if even he didn’t want to touch them, didn’t want to acknowledge that this thing was happening, this no-sale sale-day on the subway. He could be a zombie, you think, with the way he walks, attracted by the sound of jingling coins, easily distracted. But no, no one carries coins anymore, just our debit cards, so that jingling must be keys or a cell phone alarm or the long elaborate earrings that one girl is wearing, the girl in the corner who shakes her head in response when the sock man holds out his offering. Even if we wanted to buy your socks, zombie sock man, you don’t take plastic, so you’re shit out of luck. One pair of socks is printed with little black cats and if you did carry coins you might even take those, out of guilt or spite or just because your feet are particularly cold while on this subway. But you have no coins so you look away; you stare at your phone or your to-do list or the book you can’t concentrate on because of the zombie sock man. You read the same paragraph over and over and wonder if maybe there is a zombie apocalypse happening right now, right in the middle of it all, but you didn’t notice, and perhaps you even caused it. You don’t notice because it happens to people like the sock man on the subway. You caused it because you didn’t look this sock man in the eye, and you never would have noticed him if it weren’t for the shuffling and the socks and the sad sad clinking of coins that don’t exist.
The Clinking of Coins is a masterpiece of prose and place. The writer brings us into a moment we have all experienced if we live in a big city and shifts the MONSTER from the subject to the reader. This was the standout, hands-down, no questions asked winner for me.
Chelsea Sutton is a fiction writer, playwright, and a 2016 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow. Her fiction has appeared in The Rattling Wall, Spectrum, Bourbon Penn, The Texas Observer, and others. Her plays have been finalists for the O’Neill Playwrights, PlayPenn, and Seven Devils Conferences, and the Stanley Drama, Woodward/Newman Drama, and Reva Shiner Comedy awards. She is currently working on a short story collection entitled Curious Monsters and developing new plays with Skylight Theatre’s Playlab and Humanitas PlayLA.