We are happy to announce our winners for The 6th annual David Sedaris Humor Writing Contest. Congratulations, and thank you to all that entered. We truly enjoyed reading your submissions!
“You Didn’t Miss Much” by Lexi Cary
The night my uncle met my aunt, his future wife, he was at the end of
the line. A twenty-seven year old airline pilot, he was forty pounds
overweight and severely alone. He knew where to find a Cinnabon in
every airport from Dallas Fort Worth to Washington Dullas and back to
SFO. That night he was mercifully between commuter flights from LAX to
JFK. His next flight to New York was two days away, and for now he
roughed the loneliness in the airport adjacent Holiday Inn, forty-five
minutes away from his college roommate’s wedding in Malibu if he
sped (which he always did—ground travel couldn’t keep him awake
unless he was going at least ninety).
Jeff and Tanya’s perfect beach wedding had progressed as planned.
Her spray tan was as smooth as the expensive card stock the
invitations had been printed on. Once at the reception hall, the
couple circulated through the crowd and through their many T&J
monograms, thanking the A List guests separately with terse smiles.
Every time the crowd clinked their glasses however Tanya and Jeff had
exchanged tight-lipped WASPy kisses like they’d been rehearsing in
front of a priest.
After dourly ingesting anextra-large serving of buttery steak, my
uncle Tommy knocked back a row of tequila shots at the bar. Standing
at six-four he wavered in his posture enough to send bridesmaids
scattering out of his path in fear. He was in the wedding party and
sat at a long table on a stage. Needing to pee, thinking of the grind
of the Holiday Inn ice machine that awaited him, he wasn’t in the mood
for a speech.
He was twenty-seven and was handsome enough (before the weight) to
have had thirty girlfriends, although his condescension and quick wit
had left him with the burden of an unlost virginity and stifling
existential concern for his future, for his past as well. Perhaps he
shouldn’t have spent college shoulder-to-shoulder with other pale
young men memorizing flight procedures in a sub-zero basement in North
Dakota. Maybe he should have been out meeting girls, been in airport
bars flashing his pilot’s pin, not scarfing McDonalds fries to keep
his insecurity at bay. And here was Jeff, that bastard that everything
came easily to, who got those sexy flights to South America right out
the gate, smiling with his pretty thin young wife who weighed as much
as the amount of food my uncle planned to eat in the ensuing weekend.
“Come on, Tommy, give us a speech!” the groom insisted.
“Yes,” he said, grabbing the mic and staggering in response to
some feedback. “A speech for Jeff. Jeff was always smart,
everybody—always really smart. He knew his airport codes like
that,” he snapped sloppily after putting down his drink. “We were
roommates—I don’t know if Tanya knows this—this was before her
time—but I always felt like we were soul mates. Which is why to this
day I can’t nail down a girlfriend,” he was now laughing hollowly,
not understanding why a fellow pilot in the front row was mouthing NO
repeatedly. “So here’s to Jeff everybody—the reason I can
finally confront the fact that I’m gay. You all knew it—now it’s
confirmed. On you go.”
Tommy strolled offstage after dropping the mic, drowning the feeling
that he’d made a mistake by grabbing a flute of champagne out of
Jeff’s aghast grandmother’s quaking hand and downing it in a
single gulp. He strode out to the parking lot, hoping to bum a
cigarette off one of the valets, when a young woman with long black
hair ran towards the door, pulling a lilac shawl over her bony,
freckled shoulders. A gust off the ocean blew her bangs out of her
eyes and they made electric eye contact.
“Oh, shoot, am I late?” my future aunt asked hurriedly. “You
never know when a reception is actually going to start.”
“You’re a little late,” he admitted, “but you didn’t miss
“The DairyHeir” by Lyndsey Silveira
Farmer Brown died in a stampede of his own cows, thus bequeathing a
petty fortune to his son, James “Jimmy” Brown. Only a small
fraction of this petty fortune was actually produced by the dairy,
because small dairies cannot make much money. Farmer Brown had
invested his own inheritance wisely, farming was but a labor of love
Jimmy was left with five whole acres and six murderous cows on his
incapable and unknowledgeable hands. He also had to plan for his
The day after his father’s untimely death, Jimmy made the rounds,
milking each cow by hand. He could not look at or smell or hear those
cows without feeling a deep loathing for them and all they
represented. They had killed his father, and yet they bound him to
them, because his father had loved them. Farmer Brown would often say,
when drunk, “never sell the farm, never give up the cows.” If he
was very, very drunk, he would repeat it, like a mantra.
Every time Jimmy looked into their vacant, brown eyes, as they
blissfully chewed cud—seemingly unaware that they were slaves—he
was reminded of this obligation. They reeked of stupid, bestial
malice. He resolved never to consume dairy again (running a dairy or
being intimately familiar with dairies tends to make dairy products
A week later, Farmer Brown’s funeral was attended by ten family
members and friends, all of whom came to collect intel about the will,
or to make their offer to buy the small plot of land. At this point,
Jimmy was still determined to keep his promise to his father, to
continue the family legacy. He turned down every offer, and assured
them all that he was prepared to handle the farm.
After two more days of milking, the lordship over five whole acres
and six cows proved too great for Jimmy, and so he sold the farm, with
the murderers of his father, and headed for the suburbs. The cattle
were eventually butchered, and the land of James’s ancestors was
given over to corn.
Jimmy bought a nice little house in a nice neighborhood with nice
neighbors. The house featured a white picket fence. He adopted a dog,
but longed for the companionship of a more intelligent being, and one
that would not lick its own balls in front of guests. He started going
to bars, the sort frequented by lonely single people of his age set.
One night, he went to a bar with many large television screens,
conveniently placed so that anyone, anywhere could look away from
their date and pretend to watch sports if conversation stalled.
It was at this bar that Jimmy would meet his future wife, Holly, née
Byron. During their entire first conversation, he did not look at the
TV screens, even once. He had never been very interested in sports,
but her large, dark eyes held him captive that entire evening. He
could hardly remember what they’d talked about, or if they’d
talked at all, but he could say with pride and certainty that she was
smarter than his dog.
After a whirlwind courtship of five months, the pair became engaged.
As fate would have it, they were both heirs, and so they lived very
comfortably in the suburbs, with their white picket fence and their
dog. As expected, they produced fine, robust offspring, two of them: a
boy-child and a girl-child, in that order.
Jimmy slowly came to terms with the death of his father, and the
abrupt severance of his agricultural roots. He almost forgot about
dairies, until the day he stumbled upon his wife breastfeeding their
second child. He had always avoided interrupting such moments, but now
he was confronted with the act, in all its horror. Somehow, he had
forgotten that human females produce milk, too. Waves of revulsion
overtook him, he felt that he would vomit. He rushed to the toilet,
but nothing came up.
The next day, he noticed her large, brown eyes again. To be more
precise, he noticed how cow-like they were. At the dinner table, she
chewed her food complacently, blank-faced, very cow-like. He realized
that he had married a bovine. And he began to consider that he, too,
was becoming very bovine. His life was set in a routine, and he had
never even thought to throw it off.
That night, he had a dream that he was a cow, being led into a
slaughter pen. When he woke up, sweating, heart pounding, he tried to
think, what is the slaughter pen? Where is it? Is it too late for me
to avoid it? More importantly, who are the slaughterers?
He turned over and reached for the sleeping pills on his bedside
The next day, he decided that he would drink milk for the first time
in years. He had hardly taken the first gulp when he spat it out. He
realized that the only real way to conquer his fear of being the
bovine was to eat the flesh of the beast itself.
After work, Jimmy went to the grocery store and bought three big
fatty steaks. By a complete and somewhat perverse coincidence, the
steaks came from a cow that had once been a direct descendant of one
of his father’s cows. Now, it was dinner.
Holly came home, with their calves in tow, very surprised but
secretly pleased to see Jimmy in the kitchen. He seasoned the steaks
as a Food Channel chef recommended, and prepared to use the barbecue
for the first time in a year. He very narrowly avoided burning the
steaks, but they looked appetizing as he took them out. Holly chopped
up some vegetables and placed them in a becoming arrangement on the
plates. The children split a steak and whined about having to eat
Meanwhile, Jimmy ate the steak and tried not to think of cannibalism.
“Bluebird” by Jordan Wingate
I was fourteen when I first saw the ocean. I didn’t want it to, but
it gave me pause all the same. Foam. Red swimsuits. Waves like cupped
hands. You looked beyond these things, and then there was nothing,
only a heavy line where sky met sea and the world fell out of sight.
By way of preparation, my father – a veteran of the beach day-trip
– had explained to me in the car all the ways which a boy, and yes,
even a boy who had seen Shark Week, could suddenly perish at a
seemingly quiet seaside. “And why do we wear boots on the sand,
Champ?” he asked me.
“Needles,” I said. He cocked his head and looked at my mother in a
kind of puzzled disappointment. “Heroin needles,” I corrected.
“And what does heroin cause, Champ?”
“‘Swift and silent death,’” I quoted from his flashcards.
Dad nodded and looked again at my mom, who rolled her eyes and
adjusted her lumbar pillow. “What?” he said. “It kills. Heroin
kills. Go ahead Champ,” he turned to me. “Try and name one person
you know who’s still alive and addicted to heroin.” I admitted I
didn’t know any. To save face I mentioned that Tristan Houser smoked
pot behind the cafeteria during lunch.
“Oh man,” my dad snorted, shaking his head and smiling in a
knowing way. “Not even close, Champ. Not even ballpark. This kid
thinks he is tough? He’s got no idea what’s tough.”
Tristan Houser was pretty tough. If you were slow getting dressed for
gym, he’d circle the locker room, chanting, “Scrambled eggs,
scrambled eggs” until, by the time you realized who he was circling,
he’d already be behind you, twisting your nipples into modern art. I
had personally seen him moon Mr. Brown, one of the history teachers
who also coached girls’ soccer, on at least two occasions; once
during our American History midterm, and once during the girls’
championship game against Horton Middle. He had stayed after school
just to moon Mr. Brown. That’s how tough he was.
Dad pulled in to a sandy parking lot. A group of teenagers stood by
two roofless Jeeps, their surfboards piled in back with an ad-like
negligence, laughing into the wind, brown hands running through
translucent hair. Maybe, I thought for a moment, throwing my hair to
one side of my face and adjusting it in the rearview mirror, maybe –
“Do you know how big a giant squid is, Champ?” my dad asked as he
began to sunscreen his armpits. Thirty feet, it turned out.
After consulting a tidal map, we set up close to a foreign couple and
their young son – “that sickly bunch over there” my father said
– who had, it seemed, already found the ideal spot. When the man and
woman left to swim, my mother struck up a conversation with their son
after she noticed they were flipping through the same TV Guide.
“Don’t your eyes hurt reading without sunglasses?” she asked.
“I only read by the light of the sun,” said the foreign boy with
“Hear that? That’s interesting, Bluebird,” my mother said,
turning to me. “I didn’t know it was safe to leave a retarded
child alone at the beach.”
I dug in the sand with my boot. My father was adjusting the umbrella
with the vigilance of a reactor technician, or a soldier raising the
flag on the beaches of Iwo Jima, swearing loudly at the motions of the
wind. “I’m ever so glad,” he said, “I’m just tickled that
the fine people at BeachBuys had the ingenuity to make this wonderful
piece of fucking shit a sturdy ten ounces, else I fear it might have
blown away in the wind.”
“Dear,” my mom said to her TV Guide, “careful in front of
“I only mean I’d like to talk to the designer,” my father said
as a second wind bent the umbrella. “Or stab him. I would. You
couldn’t blame me, it’s just man’s temperament.” He settled
back down next to me and took a swig from his canteen. “Only
kidding, Champ,” he said. “But some people you just want to hurry
up and die.”
“Let’s get a postcard for Grandma,” Mom said.
For the next few hours we read and pivoted beneath the umbrella like
the shadow of a sundial, reapplying every fifteen minutes or so until
we acquired the healthy glow of a family of polar bears. Eventually
Mom and Dad fell back into their ongoing debate of the pros and cons
of baking soda, and I just sat there, looking out at the fishing boats
creeping across the horizon. Their mechanical arms kept hauling in
these dripping, swollen nets of fish and then dumping them on the
deck. I watched this happen maybe twenty times. I thought of how it
would feel to be a fish, to be fast and silver, and then to be caught
in a net. Not even caught by someone. Not even caught on purpose. I
started to get very angry, and I then realized my boots were untied,
my shirt was off, and I was running across the hot sand toward the
“Your shoes, Champ! The shells! The hooks! The Big Somethings in
the Dark Water!”
“The tidal chart, Bluebird!”
As I heard the familiar sound of the family flare gun, a big wave
rose up before me. I pointed my arms and dove beneath it, the cold
water washing the grit from my face. It was nice under there. Soon, I
knew, I would have to go up for air, to find out where I was, to show
my parents I was alive, but I allowed myself to think for the moment
before I resurfaced that I was fast, and I was silver, and I was home,
and I was free.