Last month, we announced our Significant Objects story contest. We picked out three objects from a thrift store – a doll ($5), a thermos with the Marlboro logo ($5), and a wooden trinket ($1) – and asked you to perform creative alchemy, turning junk into treasure by giving it a backstory. We received nearly 300 submissions in the forms of short stories, letters, monologues, poems, even a haiku.
This week, Rob Walker (co-editor of the new book Significant Objects) came back to announce the winners of the contest – they'll each receive the object they made significant. You can read the winning submissions below.
Thanks to everyone who entered.
Read all of the backstories for the Marlboro Thermos
Read all of the backstories for the Doll
Read all of the backstories for the Wooden Thing
Object: Marlboro ThermosWinner: Liz Russell – Forestville, California
My mother was flipping through the catalog frantically in her hospital bed.
"I've been collecting these miles so I could finally get you something outstanding…" she looked up and pulled her thinning hair behind her ear. "You've always been so outdoorsy, you know."
"I've got a pile of these," she pointed to a plastic bag full of carefully banded red and white coupons. "Each pack is a hundred miles."
"Wow, mom." "Well, I'm like a millionaire in this catalog," she said, sitting upright indignantly. "I can order anything I like here…"
"Do you want anything?" she asked, like a child whose been caught in the wrong room.
"I want my mother to live long enough to come to my wedding."
She tossed the catalog onto the floor, tears clogging her voice to a mumble. "Low, Estelle, that was low."
"Well you can hardly expect me to jump for joy that I can have some tacky trinket in exchange for my mother's life."
"God, you're so dramatic."
Picking the catalog up from the floor and handing it to her, I pointed to the page where it had split open. "A thermos, mom, I'd love a thermos."
She died 10 days later. The thermos arrived six months after that. It doesn't make me think of her.
Liz reads her story:
â?? Read more stories about the Marlboro Thermos
Object: DollWinner: Kathleen Novak – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Whatever you want to know, I'll tell you, about being old and not believing it, about losing pieces of hair and toes and god knows, but grinning back at the world anyway, one cheery red grin.
Ottavio the toymaker gave me this grin, though he's long gone now.
He made at least a dozen of me, delivered to little shops from one side of the Arno to the next.
I sat for years watching that river.
Some dolls are observers.
We don't live in tiny houses and wear outfits.
We stay propped, we watch, we think and we wait for our thoughts to be read.
In the end we unravel like other toys, but there is something about a doll that spends its life watching – how you want to keep me near, put me on your mantle, glance everyday to see, have the half-gone eyes moved, is the tuft of hair still curled and, most of all, is that old doll still the mystery you need me to be.
Kathleen reads her story:
â?? Read more stories about the Doll
Object: Wooden ThingWinner: Peter Schranz – Plymouth Meeting, PA
Critics rave, "Wooden Thing is a must-buy if you are a collector of such things," and, "Since the penny's included, it's really only ninety-nine cents, plus shipping."
Barbara Blauborg of Billings, Montana gushes, "I used to have a lump, but when I bought Wooden Thing, the lump disappeared, and I didn't have to go to the doctor! Do you any see evidence that Wooden Thing DIDN'T save my life?"
E.B. Moom of Springfield, Alaska, natters, "I have a sandalwood statue of Jesus and Hanuman shaking hands, and I have Wooden Thing. Those are the two things I have."
Time is running out. A fungal blight that infects wood with large black blisters has escaped the laboratories of Pine And Cedar, LLC, and is running rampant. It took down our popsicle sticks, it took down our nightstands, and it even took down our logs, which didn't even get half a chance. Now almost all of our wood has got black blisters all over it and we're here pulling our hairs out of their sockets because we don't have much left to sell for crying out loud.
Which is to say, if you purchase Wooden Thing in the next five minutes, we'll also include a nickel, in addition to the free penny.
"Now that's six cents I've saved so far!" cheers L.F. Entmann of Ohio, Wyoming.
Tired of wooden things without any moving parts? P&C LLC-brand Wooden Thing comes with free object on a screw which can be turned around to YOUR choice of up to 285 different degrees!
The complimentary screws are made of a magnificent blend of our finest iron and carbon, an alloy better known as "ibon."
Call now and we'll throw in Wooden Thing's Yellow Stand, which if turned upside-down could be used as a wonderful yellow cup, perfect for barbeques, Christmas, lying around the house, or sharing with a friend.
So call now for Christ's sake. For ninety-four cents, plus shipping, you could have Wooden Thing in the palm of your clutches as we speak.
This message was bought AND paid for by Pine and Cedar LLC, a division of Pinophyta Quadricorp, a Cohen and Cohn Company.
Peter reads his story:
â?? Read more stories about the Wooden Thing