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Prize Winners is a take on human behavior and what we spend a good portion of our lives doing, everything from inexplicably idolizing celebrities to nursing an addiction to obsessing over intimacy issues to having and/or thinking about sex, sex, and more sex.

There were tender moments that hit hard, moments strategically masked with contemporary voice in pieces like Motherhood. Take this excerpt: “Girls in porn have never been mothers. Molly knows this. They haven’t felt the pain of pushing eight and a half pound miniature humans into the world through their vaginas, or had their nipples bitten and sucked raw by thirsty infants. This is what Molly tells her husband, Bill after she checks the history on their internet browser and finds he’s been looking at sites like milfbang.com or wankstop.com. Sure, the sex has been closer to unusual than infrequent, but shouldn’t Bill be happy he’s getting any?”

And there were stories about damaged relationships intermittently interrupted with a sex scene or two: “It’s been a month since we lost the baby and we’ve been fucking like a tornado ever since. I slam into her like I’m trying to punish her uterus, and she clinches tight around me like she wants to be torn in two. People say there’s a first time for everything. When we got pregnant my father told me marriage was a lifetime of firsts. But sometimes you have to test the mattress a thousand times to make sure it’s right. Sometimes you have to act like every moment is the goddamned last.”

Many stories focused on people with OCD-like compulsions or character flaws fueled by some subconscious desire or internal void. The protagonist in A Culture of Bacteria was driven to madness because he found his girlfriend’s huge dildo. Then there was relationship drama induced by petty arguments like the lack of gifts in funny-because-it’s-true observation, “So I go through the perfumes at Macy’s, Mervyn’s, and every other store in the mall. The bottle is nearly thirty bucks. For two ounces. I think about all the shots of Jack Daniels I could be doing for thirty dollars. The lap dances I could get when my boys and I go out after work. But I want to make Beth happy, so I buy the perfume.”

Sometimes it’s hard to absorb the constant mention of bodily things like periods, semen, boners, and it seemed like someone was always naked, having sex, jerking off, getting sucked off, spanking or fantasizing about being spanked. Occasionally, stories crossed into the bizzaro: “Once, when I fucked Tinkerbell, thirty glowing lights sprang to life in the dark static air of the by-the-hour motel room.”

I’ve read a good portion of Bradley’s published and unpublished material, and Prize Winners may not necessarily represent his finest work, though I do look forward to what he has in the wings with Black Coffee Press, Artistically Declined Press, and his design ventures.

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