Victoria Wirkijowski. Nowhere Man. Grade 8, Age 13. 2012 Gold Medal, Digital Art.

Choosing your words carefully is a serious business, but the outcome can be funny! If it’s a piece by seasoned flash-fiction writer Stefanie Freele you can be sure it will be, above all, real and relatable. Read on and see how deftly Freele uses details to make it so in just 522 words!

Every Girl Has An Ex Named Steve

We tell her not to date a man in a banana suit. A boy really. She’s young and doesn’t know any better, but dang, we wish she’d listen to our advice. We’re years older, we’ve been through it all, we know better. We tell her this on her bed, us six sisters, us six girls, quietly, so Dad doesn’t hear. If he only knew his youngest, his homeschooled, his oops from a second marriage had the hotsies over a banana.

We’re not going to tell him.

We point out the guy’s feet. They are splayed we say, duck-like. Quack Quack we say. She loves his feet, they show vulnerability. We are concerned about his eyes. They remind us of a kid who was really an alien in an after school special, who just wanted to be human and be loved. Loved, she says and her face is reddening.

We look at each other in silence. She’s doomed. She said loved.

The oldest sister points out that being a banana at Jamba Juice isn’t a career, he doesn’t even know what he wants in life. But, the lovebird says she doesn’t care, she loves the way he says Razzamataz. She repeats it. We repeat it. Razzamataz? It is the name of the smoothie she always orders.

What is his name someone finally asks and we all say, yeah, what is his name anyway?

Steve. She says Steve as if she is plucking the first ripe peach off a summer tree.

Steve? We push and shove each other. Didn’t you date a Steve? And you?

We come to the conclusion we’ve all had Bad Steves. At least six Bad Steves — including one ex-husband Steve — and one more, a not-really-dated Bad Steve that stood up the second eldest at the drive-thru A&W. Extra embarrassing because she had to call Dad to come get her. There was no way the standing-up-Steve could have redeemed himself after Dad got involved.

Our banana-enthralled-virgin is fussing with the corner of her pink spread. She is trembling a bit and one sister says, don’t cry, this might be the Steve exception. We all pat her and apologize, there are always anomalies we say and the sister who is a scientist explains that in nature there are occasionally mutations that breed into something extraordinary. She says, for instance, look at the—

Dad opens the door. Girls! This is dangerous. You’re all in one room.

Come in. We all say.

I might get swallowed alive, he says. He sits on the edge of the bed next to the lip-quiverer and pats her head. Lovetalk?

The tears burst out. Dad has a way of doing that.

The banana?

How did you know, we all ask?

He lifts up her chin, It’s the way he says Razzamataz, isn’t it? He’s trying not to smile and so are we. Two sisters have to leave the room.

The four of us gather around Dad and the little one and hold her while she sobs, “And, his name is Steve. Why does his name have to be Steve?”

Unfortunately, some guys are just like that, Dad says.

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