second place

Groans of frustration from the studio audience mixed in with the applause. Daniel looked out over the audience, fuming. He’d miscalculated….”


by denis bell


Daniel Santos started, a little embarrassed as his daughter Linda entered the room. “Why are you watching this old tape again, poppy, it’s so boring. Anyway, you lost!

Daniel looked up at his daughter and beamed. His pride and joy, all he had in the world since he’d lost his wife Juanita to breast cancer five years ago. Time passed by so quickly. He couldn’t believe Linda was now twelve years old. “Don’t fuss chica, it’s almost over. Then we’ll eat.”

Daniel had viewed this recording so many times it was a wonder the tape wasn’t worn out. One of those old Betamax affairs. The show hadn’t changed much in the almost thirteen years since he was on it. The winner kept the cash they earned and came back to play again whereas the two runners up had to settle for a shabby little consolation prize.


“First we come to our returning champion Eric who is up against two very good players today. His response?”


“Sorry, Sweden is incorrect. How much will it cost him?”


“That will drop him down to $2100. Now over to John.” FINLAND

“Finland is the correct answer. And his wager?”


“Hello – everything! That doubles his score to $12,800 and puts him into the lead for now. Now over to Daniel, who was leading with $9,000. Did he come up with Finland?”


“Yes he did. Did he wager enough?”


“That brings his total to $12,000 and guess what John, you’re our new champion!”

A few groans of frustration from the studio audience mixed in with the applause. Daniel looked out over the audience, fuming. He’d miscalculated, had he wagered more wisely he could have wound up with eighteen thousand dollars and won the game. Eighteen grand! – a fortune to people like them. He hadn’t been able to concentrate though, his mind was elsewhere. He and Juanita had been trying to conceive for two years. Seemed that these days it was all he could think about – even at a time like this. Neither of them was young and there was only so much time…

“We’ll see John again tomorrow. Second and third place contestants will receive a precious gift from our sponsor Shane’s Underwear. A year’s supply of boxers.”

Had the man said precious? He must have misheard. It was probably generous, though even that was a stretch. Boxers, for God’s sake! He didn’t even wear the things, preferring tight fitting briefs. Then he remembered something, a silly article Juanita had showed him last week in one of her women’s magazines. Who knows, maybe the boxers would help…

Originally published:
Issue Sixty-Eight
April 2014


(illustration: dee sunshine)

Denis Bell is a mathematics professor residing in Jacksonville, Florida. He was born in London, England a while back. In addition to writing fiction, his hobbies include listening to music, watching Premier League soccer, and surfing (the web, that is). His writing has appeared, or is forthcoming in Bewildering Stories, Bareback Magazine, The Rusty Nail, Literary Juice, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Calliope, EWR, Hirschworth, Enhance Magazine, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Futures Trading, and Nazar Look.

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