Your Story 53 Winner: Sausage, Peppers, and Ice Cream

Prompt: Write a short story of 750 words or fewer based on this prompt: A girl puts a quarter in a gumball machine and a human tooth comes out.

Once again, you’ve made the Your Story competition a success! Thanks to everyone who participated in competition #53 (either by entering, reading or voting).

Out of more than 500 entries, readers helped us pick “Sausage, Peppers, and Ice Cream” by Jane Bash as the winner. For winning, Bash’s story will appear in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest.

Winning Entry

“Sausage, Peppers, and Ice Cream”

Rocco’s Meat Market looked like something straight out of an old gangster movie, and so did Rocco himself. My 5-year-old daughter Kayla and I had been coming here every Monday for the past three years. Anthony insisted on sausage and peppers for dinner every Monday night. It had to be hot sausage, not sweet, even though hot sausage made me gag. I told him that once; he grabbed my throat and told me I made him gag. After that, it was hot sausage and peppers. No questions asked.

But Rocco asked a lot of questions: What happened to your wrist? How’d you get that bruise on your arm? Why are you wearing sunglasses inside the store? I’d been doing this for so long, I always had an answer ready: I fell down ice-skating with my daughter. The car door bumped me. I have sensitive eyes. Rocco never bought any of my answers, but he was always polite. He’d give Kayla a quarter for the gumball machine, hand me my carefully wrapped hot sausage, and say, “We got lots of other good stuff, you know… when you’re ready for a change.” I’d nod wistfully and head home quickly. Those sausages had to be ready at five o’clock sharp.

I knew Rocco rode past my house sometimes; I’d seen his Mustang glide by around dusk, after the store was closed. I never asked him about it, but I always wanted to. Rocco knew Anthony “from the neighborhood,” as they say. They’d even had a schoolyard fight in the fourth grade, which both men still claimed to have won. Anthony wasn’t the type to accept defeat. He’d never let me leave with Kayla. He’d see us both dead first (his words, not mine). Kayla was the only reason I maintained the status quo, buying my weekly sausage and wondering if we’d ever get away.

This week at Rocco’s was different.

For one thing, the place reeked of bleach. For another thing, we hadn’t been there the previous Monday. Kayla had been at her grandmother’s house baking butterscotch blondies, and I’d been at the emergency room getting 24 stitches in my forehead. For yet another thing, Rocco didn’t ask a single question about those thick black stitches resembling a caterpillar protruding above my right eye. He just gave Kayla a quarter and smiled as she bounced off to the gumball machine. “She deserves the best,” Rocco said. “So do you.” He ducked toward the back counter and started wrapping meat.

I wasn’t even sure why I was there. I hadn’t seen Anthony since he sent me to the emergency room; he’d also sent me a text saying he’d left us and was never coming back. It all just seemed too good to be true, and I guess that was why I was buying hot sausage for the umpteenth time.

Kayla clattered up behind me, her eyes as big as Frisbees. “Look, Mommy!” she barely whispered, raising her tiny fist.

“Did you get a polka dot gumball?” I smiled, prying her hand open.

I gasped: it was a tooth. Not just any tooth—Anthony’s front tooth, chipped from that fourth-grade schoolyard fight. I picked it up and laid it on the counter next to Rocco’s hand. That’s when I noticed he was wearing Anthony’s watch.

Rocco handed me a paper bag. “Here’s some beautiful center cut pork chops for you and the little princess.” He nodded at Kayla, then lowered his voice. “No more sausages, OK?” He looked at his new watch and raised an eyebrow. “He’ll never bother you again.”

Anthony’s text said he was gone. What did gone mean? Gone from my life? Gone from Earth? I knew better than to ask. I should have been horrified—and I was. But I was grateful, too. “Thank you,” I whispered, grabbing Kayla and heading for the car.

I locked the doors and sat blankly in the driver’s seat. He’ll never bother me again. I closed my eyes. He’ll never bother me again.

I felt a small tapping on my arm. “Mommy?” I opened my eyes and held my breath, wondering how I would answer whatever Kayla asked next.

“I never got my gumball,” she said softly. “Can we get ice cream instead?”

I breathed deeply for the first time in three years and chuckled as I started the car. “Yes, baby. We can do whatever we want.”



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47 thoughts on “Your Story 53 Winner: Sausage, Peppers, and Ice Cream

  1. WalterLowber5

    I would love to stop by. But, I think it might have to wait until this summer. I did not know that Serlkay had ever expanded its size. I must say that a succesful family owned business in this day and age is a very refreshing sight! As well as this is a very refreshing site!
    healthy eating

  2. Tannai

    Your Story 53 Sausage, Peppers, and Ice Cream
    Jane Bash, what an amazing story. I read the prompt and wasn’t sure how anyone could create a story around the base of a tooth in a gumball machine, but somehow you did it! Your story was clear and simple and yet somehow detailed just enough to keep me reading… heart jumping out of my seat I might add.I could sense the tension built around the mothers life. Worried about her daughters safety she stayed putting her own life in jeopardy. I could feel Rocco’s frustration even through his incredible generosity. I loved how he seemed to have no ulterior motivate such as a romantic interest or some kind of lust for the mother. He was simply a good guy playing witness to a bad situation. The daughter was like any kid her age; innocently clueless. I must say that your story was so brilliant I’m finding it hard to keep my hand steady on the keys to write this message. It was a great rush! It was time for a change. I think I’ll have a cup ice cream myself. Congratulations! Great job! -Be Blessed.

  3. buffalois

    please help – how are words counted? I have ‘counted’ finalists and the word counts are over 750 – please help as to how the wordcounts are measured!

  4. cfellowes

    Where are the final entries so I can read them and vote? I clicked on VOTE and READ MORE and there are no stories appearing on the site. Please advise. Thank you.

    1. Dhoffman

      I’m a registered user, I’m logged in, I’m on the page showint the titles and how many votes they have, but I can’t figure out how to cast my vote. I appreciate any help. Thanks.

  5. EAFarmer2002

    Why does it still say “Submit Now” when the deadline has already passed? This is my first time to submit a story and I’m VERY interested in the outcome! How long until the finalists are announced and voting begins?

  6. Freelancer2011

    Kausar, if I remember correctly, the rules say the entry cannot be published anywhere else, including on your own website. But you can always click on the rules tab and re-read the instructions and rules. I may be remembering the rules incorrectly now that time has passed since I last read them.

    It will definitely be interesting to see what line of thinking and how many short stories are generated by just one short prompt. This was my first time of entering a writing contest like this, so I am curious to see how well I fare in it. It took me a little while to come up with any ideas based on the prompt, but I finally came up with a story that I titled “The Birthday Surprise”. Lol! I may have had a difficult time coming up with any ideas for a short story based on a tooth found in a gumball machine. However, once I decided on how the tooth got in the gumball machine, it became much easier to write a story. I ended up having to trim over a thousand words off my rough draft.

  7. niall

    I submitted my story called Candy Oasis about a week but I was working on an old computer. So I am not sure if it got properly submitted. Was I suppose to receive an confirmation email? and should I resubmit if I didn’t receive one?


  8. Ink-stained

    Haha, I wrote a complete absurdity! A slightly Dark absurdity, but still pretty weird. And there was assonance all over the place, which made it kind of like a folklore chant with a freaky, creepy twist. They’re going to think I’m crazy. Oh, well, all writer’s are aren’t they? One blunder among a thousand blunders and a few beauties, isn’t too bad. In fact, it should be acclaimed. :).

  9. Patricia K. McGee

    I’m new here. When I submit my 750 word story online, can it be done as an attachment? 2nd Question: Is the title included in the 750 word count? Thanks for a reply which I hope will come.

    1. Amy

      It says right in the directions that if you are sending it in an email, to include it right in the body of the email, (no attachments please). I’m pretty sure the title is not included in the 750, but you might want to edit to leave it just shy to be safe. It’s so much easier on everybody to stay just under the limit than trying to make exceptions for everything.

  10. buffalois

    hi – i was wondering – does the 750 words include the title? and, how are the words counted? just curious ‘cus my word program counts double quotes as a word. thanks!

  11. Trave Heath Lien

    I really had a ton of fun with this prompt. At first I had no idea what to do and then got this image in my head and only barely got within the word count!

  12. scrubbingbubbles

    When I submitted my story it came in at 747 words title and all. After entering it into the entry form on this page I noticed that passages that were italicized in the original document were not on the form. I added slashes to indicate the italicized parts and was curious if this might affect the stories word count as per the contest guideline. Should I resubmit?

    1. KirstyXytsriK

      You’re only allowed one entry per contest, however they sometimes make exceptions for things like that. Next time if you have words in italics, the best thin to do would be to e-mail your entry to instead of using the entry box, because either form of entry is accepted and an e-mail will allow italicised words. 🙂

    1. Kausar

      another doubt…..does the opening line have to be the sentence given or do we have to write a story based on that line…?…hmm…I’m kinda new to this so these doubts are lurking in my mind….sorry to bother you~

      1. Jaybird

        The sentence given is not an opening line or even a line you need to use in your story. It’s is only a prompt for the subject matter of your fiction, but I don’t see why you can’t use it as the first line if you want to! 🙂

        As for your first question, it’s my understanding that it cannot be published anywhere (except for your own website, but even then I would be cautious), so if you want to post your work on another website, which is technically publishing it, your entry might be disqualified. In my opinion, if you’re serious about having a chance at winning the Your Story contest, wait until the top 5 are announced. If your story is not picked, it is safe to assume that you are free to publish it wherever you please!

        Good Luck!


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