Best in Show: “The Evening News,” Peggy Barnes

The following story is the 2014 Dayton Daily News/Antioch Writers’ Workshop Short Story Contest winner for best in show. The Best in Show winner receives a full scholarship (registration and tuition) to this year’s 29th annual Summer Program of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop.


Peggy Barnes lives in Springboro and received her MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College at age of 63. She has been published in both fiction and nonfiction and just completed her memoir, “First Daughter, Once Removed,” after discovering unknown truths about her birth mother. She says, “The first line of ‘The Evening News’ duplicates a line in the memoir, but fiction allowed the story to go where it wanted. The greatest advice I’ve ever received is to write every day, which sounds sort of boring and lame but is ever so true.”


Best in Show: "The Evening News" by Peggy Barnes

First Place Adult: "Grandma's Wringer Washer" by Christy Lynne Trotter

Second Place Adult: "Our Internal Lives" Sarah Doebereiner

Third Place Adult: "Tank You" Judy Whelley

First Place Teen: "Carpool Book Club" Deborah Rocheleau

First Place Youth: "27 Days of Suffering" Ben Kochensparger

Second Place Youth: "Jenny Sais Quoi" Helen Sparrow

“The Evening News”

She crushes the leaves, blends them with tomatoes shaped like tears. “Oregano has curative powers,” she says. She quotes from a courageous book on natural healing, taken from the library and not returned, something she has not done in sixty years. “Even doctors use herbs. Instead of…”

He looks away from the television, wrinkles his nose at the smell of garlic. “What? Sports will be over in a minute.”

Bring your husband, the doctor said while she had stared at her watch. Old, maybe twenty years. Bought on a cruise ship, she couldn’t remember where. Greece, St. Croix. You shouldn’t go through this alone.

“Channel twelve’s fuzzy again.” A scoreboard disappears Click. Scattered showers and a chance of fog. Click. Over two-hundred channels. An infinitude of clickdom.

On the surface of the tomato sauce whirlpools form, droplets spatter the kitchen wall.

She serves dinner. He has invited the usual guests, flat-faced men and women of politics. He debates the opposing team. While her salad glistens on the plate, he decries this bungled nation. Even as her veal grows cold, the president becomes more inept. By the time for raspberry tarts, she wonders why all the flags in the country are not flying at half mast.

He does not enjoy the wine selection; tannin upsets his stomach. Taking his glass to the sink, he says, sorry, but he has forgotten what she wanted to tell him. Was it something important? Surely not, he says, or it wouldn’t have slipped her mind. He settles into the Barcalounger and rejoins the company of those lively, verbose women and men.

She carries the bottle outside.


Rain prickles her back. Rain hurries her past her garden, past the pond to where the grass meets the woods. Where twenty-five years ago he built this A-frame playhouse. But the children were afraid of forests. Coyotes, they said, tribes of Indians! Take me inside, Mommy. Take me on your lap. One August she brought sleeping bags and hoped they would return each year to make love beneath the meteor showers. The Perseid display is brief, and most years the viewing conditions are poor; fiery streaks blaze, then disappear beyond the clouds.

All along, she intended the house to be her studio, a place to create something she never quite found. Now there are families of spiders clinging to webs, and mice, she supposes. But she is willing to share. Give me the damp space—if there’s room enough to scream. Or I will take the silence.

Wine tastes better from the bottle, closer to the vine. Drink the vine. Watch out the window for clouds that refuse to move. The bones around her eyes ache and sounds are coming from the forest. An old man plodding down a moss-slick path?

But it is only rain wailing for a painless farewell.


Out the living room window he sees her, drenched, jousting for footholds on the lawn. He gather her in, towels her hair. Settling beside her on the couch, he hands her the controls. They watch a while and think about the world as it goes stumbling off its course.

About the Author