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Issue 61, October-December  2014
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130
The Heavenly Editorial Offices
by Suzanne McConnell

First Place: Flash Fiction

Our Judge, Kathy Fish, had this to say about Suzanne McConnell's story, "The Heavenly Editorial Offices":

An unnerving little tale that actually made me wince a couple of times while reading, "The Heavenly Editorial Offices" does what flash does best, and that is to create a powerful and resonant impact upon the reader in as small a space as possible. Out of a field of ten remarkable flash fictions, this one I felt was the most original and took the most chances. I won't soon forget it.

You will notice, in Mr. Jameson's office, the hacksaw. It is to be used only with his permission, and only when very, very necessary. 

Pardon? Au contraire. The hacksaw is quite dangerous. You use it by hand. That required, fierce grip is what endangers. Therefore it is under Mr. Jameson's care. No, he is not the senior editor. He is the editor with the hacksaw. (Yes, he looks genteel. But beware. Be extremely polite. He has been known to go into a temper. You will certainly experience it in your time here.) The hacksaw takes focus, muscle. The blade is jagged. It rips; it tears. Back and forth, back and forth, hacks through ribcage, thick bone (vertebrae are, you know, thick as a fist), and what have you: it is used to cut to the heart. 

On the right is Miss Pringle's office. Don't knock. Miss Pringle is hard of hearing. She never hears a knock. She doesn't hear you, she will not hear you, she is about her own business. She is the line editor. It is said in the profession that the best are deaf. She uses a feather quill. If you are lucky, you will hear whispering. If you listen very very carefully standing ear to her oak door. She wields the quill so lightly it lullabies, one barely feels it’s paring. 

Their personal lives? They are cloistered. (Here we do not reason why, sir, we only do or die.) 

In the next room, the grand room, are the hooks. Notice they vary in size. Anyone can use them. They grab, gouge, yank. You will certainly, occasionally, have reason to employ them. The secretary notes who uses them when. 

You will find the secretary extremely, how shall it be said, unctuous in executing her duties. She has a fondness for minutiae. You will find pencils, pens, clips, the usual – the skinning knives, the hide scraper, the blood sopping cloths. She keeps count of everything. She lines them up. She had, you see, an unfortunately chaotic childhood, about which she never speaks. It is common knowledge. The grapevine that you see creeping along the walls? On it her childhood story has sprouted for us all to know from the seeds that occasionally burst like shrieks from her prim mouth. There was, for example, not a mother, father, a pen or pencil in place in her childhood home, nor sister, brother, grandmother. They were interchangeable, they switched roles willy-nilly, don't you see, fragmenting her young psyche almost daily into unrecognizable assortments so that now she inclines her whole being into sorting, placing, distinguishing. She is, sir, a great secretary. Her mother, sir – and I mention this not as exemplifying the aforementioned exactly but of I'm not sure what contemporary dysfunctional non-category – fucked her sister Sally's brains out in front of her very eyes and our little secretary had to scrape those brains off the floor, the walls, under the carpet under the carpet, bits of splatter in the oven someone had left the door open and baking all night, off grandma's motorcycle, off her pop's trike...Need more be said? She is a very fine secretary. She never skips a beat. She does not lose track. If your mind wanders from editing, she will find it. She will direct you back to the business at hand in excruciatingly clear step-by-anal-step detail, hand you the proper scissors, knives, tape, sponge, and tell you in exactly what drawers and cubby-holes you can stick them. 

On the halls on either side of that grand room are cubicles, one after the other. Many share in this operation. Along here hangs the minor communal equipment. No you will be not allowed, at first, to have your own mighty sword. 

What? Absolutely not. We have decided. There is no going back now. We went over your application with a fine-toothed comb, as you might imagine. We have heard from very reliable sources about your modus operandi at your previous place of employ - the acquisitions, the stabbing in the back, the bloody Marys, the cutthroat lunches. Your credentials have been reviewed. We need a talented, aspiring-to-greatness-and-fame young man such as yourself, sacrificing all else to that aspiration, devoid of social life and family and personal obligations, bereft of loyalty to anyone or anything other than the office. We need new blood, as it were. 

That last office, the cubicle there - the one the grapevine almost reaches? - is yours.

Suzanne McConnell's fiction has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and an excerpt from her completed novel (now available for publication) won Second Prize in So to Speak’s Fiction Contest. Her work has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The Huffington Post, The Saint Ann’s Review, The Fiddlehead and elsewhere, and is forthcoming in Decameron and Water Stone Review. She is writing a book on Kurt Vonnegut’s advice to writers and is Fiction Editor at Bellevue Literary Review.