Literature 8-31-2009

mnLIT presents: Eric Vrooman

This week's miniStories winner is "Performance Review," a very clever story by Eric Vrooman, selected for the 2009 cycle of mnLIT by author Diana Joseph.

miniStories winner, Eric Vrooman
mnLIT: What Light Poetry Project and the miniStories flash fiction competition


Name: Carnegie “Eggy” Castalano

Job Title: VP of Sales, Marketing, Distribution, and Inventory

Quarter/Year: 02/2009


Communication: “And…um, it’s like…um a really good deal” is technically communicating, but barely.   

Teamwork: I could have used some help carrying Mrs. Mortenson’s folding tables.

Recruitment: Reuben did a passable job keeping flies, if not his own fingers, out of the iced tea pitcher. At least we didn’t have to pay him, and he bought my sleeping bag with the broken zipper and a half-done sudoku book.

Business Ethics: You’re ashamed of Dad for pulling insurance scams on the elderly, but you don’t have any problem wearing the clothes he bought you with the proceeds. And you’re siding with Mom, despite the fact that she’s renting an apartment with a sauna and Jacuzzi, saying that she needs time away from “the men” in her family. Don’t you realize “the men” includes you?

Cost Consciousness: You sold dad’s DVD player to Tim Peale for $5!!! The Peale brothers slip each other roofies in their cereal, so I guarantee the missing price sticker wasn’t a coincidence. If you’re this naïve when you get to high school, you’ll be rolled in sod or tied to the soccer net wearing a Spiderman costume. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen.

Attendance and Punctuality: The garage sale started at 9 a.m. Reuben’s mom didn’t drop you off until noon — after church.

Innovation: Tying tin cans and balloons to Snuffy not only failed to draw customers, but also gave dad a migraine. If cats really can get tetanus or Mrs. Mortenson does write PETA, you’ll have some explaining to do, no matter how much church you attend.

Problem Solving: When I was out getting migraine pills, and it started to rain, you put the tarp over Mom’s travel books instead of dad’s leather sectional.

Planning & Organization: Dad wanted an “estate sale” not a “garage sale,” since people bring jars of change to garage sales and checkbooks to estate sales. After showing you online bank statements, he also begged you not to tell Mom, since he can’t even afford groceries right now. What part of “frozen assets” don’t you understand? Imagine my surprise when you assured Mrs. Mortenson that proceeds from the “garage sale” would be split with Mom!

Career Development: There probably aren’t career-training programs for sixth graders, but there should be. Public speaking classes would be good for you. Whenever you talk to an adult, you look like you’re squeezing a cow’s udders with your hands. It’s gross.

Comments: When you’re old and lonely and the phone rings, it won’t be me. By then you’ll be glad to hear a friendly voice, one that hasn’t tired of your disloyalty to “the men” in this family. And insurance might not sound like such a bad thing to have.

Overall Rating: 1.000024 on a scale of 1 – 5

Reviewer: Ford Catalano, Jr.


Juror comments: Performance Review was selected as a 2009 mnLIT winner by author Diana Joseph, who writes: “Eric Vrooman’s story demonstrates how a writer can bend genres, stretch boundaries and, most of all, use form to defy a reader’s expectation. Ford Catalano, Jr.’s evaluation of his younger brother, Carnegie “Eggy” Castalano, reveals the dynamics and dysfunctions of their relationship. Though the story’s structure — a performance review — may seem limiting, we know everything we need to know about these characters: their age, their family history, their conflicts, and resentments. The formality of the structure juxtaposed with the absurdities of Ford Catalano’s complaints about his sixth-grade brother heightens the humorous tone. Performance Review is clever, but it also has heart.”

About the author: Eric Vrooman has taught at Gustavus Adolphus College and Tulane University. His short fiction has appeared in The Kenyon Review, Passages North, The Cream City Review, Monkeybicycle, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere.

______________________________________________________ is a joint project of the Walker Art Center and the McKnight Foundation

Membership on is FREE. Find step-by-step instructions for how to join and how to use the free resources available on the site. If you need assistance, contact Will Lager at Any Minnesota resident is eligible to participate in’s mnLIT competitions for poetry and fiction; there are no entry fees, and writers at all levels of skill and experience are welcome to enter work for consideration by a revolving panel of established authors and publishing professionals in mnLIT’s blind adjudication process.