Here’s how Josh Justice’s “Another Long Stretch of Continuous Soft Rock,” the third-place winner of this year’s Austin Chronicle short-story writing contest (documented in full at “Full Hearts Can’t Lose,” begins:
The machine maintains a relentless cadence, disseminating paper over paper, over and over, the growing stack like a white monolith in the high-capacity finisher tray. Above, the fluorescent bulbs hum, and their light moves down and through the loosened paper particles drifting along sound waves from the radio’s stretch after stretch of continuous soft rock.
The CopyZone manager pats his shirt pocket and finds the torn paper from the opened end of a Rolaids pack. He tears the paper further away, removes an antacid, and slowly places it in his mouth. […]