Winners of The White Shoe First Paragraph Contest
The White Shoe Staff
We are pleased to announce the winners of the hotly contested White Shoe First Paragraph Contest. We received many, many entries — so many, in fact, that it took us several weeks to read them all and choose the winners. Also, we are very lazy.
Winners were chosen by an expert panel consisting of the redactor and his minions, who used a complex ranking formula that involved leftover 1040 forms, the Pythagorean Theorem, and a twenty-sided Dungeons & Dragons die. The top four First Paragraphs follow below. Other entries worthy of commendation will appear in the next few days. Enjoy.
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Madeline passed the church on the left. The one with the sign that read "Jesus Knows You and Loves You Anyway." She imagined someone changing the message with those big poles, the ones the fast food restaurants used for their value meals. Thirty-nine more Hail Marys and we'll supersize that salvation. She thought of Langdon sipping his tea on the swing on the back porch. Earl Gray Tea. Milk and one sugar. Eating toast with Vegamite. Watching the stars flicker over the lake. The water lapping at the kayaks on the shore. His toes curling into the warm spot on the cushion where Madeline had been. In her rearview mirror she could see the glow of headlights growing and rising up the hills. Like the sunlight in that Epcot exhibit. The one they discontinued. Her favorite one. About hydroponics. The one called Horizons.
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Ella camina todo su vida, y despues se muere. She walks all her life, and then she dies. This is the story they tell at the taquerías, over hot bites of shredded beef wrapped in flour tortillas. They tell it at the laundromats, as the long afternoon sunlight catches the change machine in the back. They tell it at home, in kitchens late into the night. Groups of them huddled, whispering urban legend, talking of her. She is many people, a patchwork of truths woven together to create a greater truth. She is and has been and will always be invisible; she is marginally central, essential but essentially ignored. She takes care of the wealthy, picking up after them, guiding and loving the children while the parents work, arriving early, leaving late, always walking but going nowhere. And if you ask for her? No está. She is not here; perhaps she is walking.
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"Other than a flannel shirt, the most essential accessory for retrieving a squirrel carcass from the thicket of juniper bushes in Mrs. Whitlock's front yard is an axe handle." The line kept rushing into her mind as she crouched in the back seat of a black and white, postwar Wartburg that was violently gliding along the brick streets of Cluj-Napoca. The driver braked hard and the young gypsy boy beside her, head shaved and wrapped in a cloth diaper, pitched forward, slammed against the front bench seat, and slid onto the floor. She thought he was going to start crying, so she grabbed his right hand, gently pressing her fingers into his palm. The boy looked up and then began shaking her hand with childish vigor. "Hello. How are you today, Mr. Brown?" he said in a trim voice. "I am quite well, thank you," he continued. Her eyes shimmered with incomprehension. He tried again. "Hello. How are you, Mr. Brown?" He tugged at the diaper on his head and began to yell. "Hello! Hello, American lady! Lucky Strike! Lucky Strike! Dallas! J.R.! Whiskey!" He paused to reload his breath. "Change money?"
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As I drove west on Mill, I saw a blind man repeatedly striking a stop sign with his cane. I'm unsure whether he was lost, or simply angry about having to stop. Stranger still, he was entirely naked, except for a paisley cravat. Forgive me, that's not entirely accurate; that's what I was wearing. Synthetic leather seats are murder on bare buttocks. I drove, the palm trees stepping past my windows with the regularity of fenceposts, a mesmerizing visual staccato drawing contrapuntal lines against the throbbing lows of the stereo, Dutch jungle mix knocking insistently on tympanum and eyelids. My blood sizzled with bourbon and Alka-Seltzer, my veins filled with a noxious, oxidized brew treacherous to waterfowl and fellow motorists. Next to me, Maryanne was unconscious, wearing only a pair of men's BVDs and holding a blue felt-tip marker. Across her chest she had scrawled the phrase "Your Name Here." I pressed harder on the accelerator, blearily watching the dial of the speedometer creep up above eighty. We were late for church.