Nov 302014
 
Public Domain Image

Public Domain Image

Welcome to the results show. There was a lot of cynicism on show this week. I think it comes with the season, at least for me. The contrast between a day where people give thanks for what they have, followed by a day of people trampling over each other for cut-price electrical goods is enough to bring out the cynical side in anyone. Anyway, let’s give thanks to judge, Marie McKay, for some sound judging.

But before I hand over to her, here’re my thoughts on the stories that didn’t quite make into her winning selections.

Thursday’s Child by Avalina Kreska

There are some great lines in this: “last spurt of human endeavor”, ” I double-dared the needle tip”. I love the image of the giant God with the cynical message. Is it from us to God because of the devastation about to hit, or from God to us because He is displeased? I love writing that both entertains and makes you think. Well done.

Thanks Taking by Denise

Thanks Taking is an excellent and original use of the opening bookend. “To survive, people only thought of themselves” was exactly what I was thinking as I watched the shocking scenes of people climbing over each other to get at discounted TVs on Black Friday. This is a very bleak and cynical story with a sad ring of truth. Well done Denise, and welcome!

Pinky the Pig by Holly Geely

A shocking act of vandalism tantamount to murder! I love the dialogue in this and the relationship between Jesse and Frederic feels very real because of the little details like Jesse’s appreciation of Fred’s award-winning gravy. A fun story. Well done Holly.

Birthday Celebrations by Stella Turner

“I had a predilection for swine. After all I had married one!” What a great line. I liked the way you included “hair in pigtails” to keep the piggy theme going. Some complicated relationships between these two couples! So did she fall or was she pushed? Great story Stella.

(*Terms and Conditions Apply*) by Karl A Russell

And now for something completely different! This had such an authentic feel, I’m sure there’s a job for you in space marketing. I loved that you saw the inflatable as a real creature; the legendary Flooflar. “You will share it’s life and memories forever.” Does that include the memory of when the poor creature was netted and milked by rich space tourists? I hope so. Well done Karl.

Ada by Stephanie Ellis

This is fantastic writing. The descriptions of the husband eating are great. I particularity liked “mouth churning a wash-cycle of gluttony.” You can feel Ada’s hatred for this slob and sympathise with her when she wants to deflate him “but everyday he seemed to balloon up that little bit more.” Brilliant, well done.

2 22 28 46 10 by Jim M

Jim focuses on the numbered people in the first of two great offerings. Extreme Bingo! What a fantastic idea. I love the TV program-style commentary, it has a real authenticity about it, especially with the clever product placement. Excellent inclusion of one of the best bingo calls (Gandhi’s breakfast, eight nothing, get it?). A really fun story.

For The Treatment Of Others by Ed Broom

A great title leading into a great, feel-good story. The dialogue is authentic and the relationship between the characters feels real. I love the little details “is there a pen in this house that actually works”, and the jokes, “I’m gonna flash this to Ali later, try and get money off my kebab.” The inflatable pig is incorporated brilliantly. I hope it’s not a premonition. Nice work Ed.

Giving Thanks by Jacki Donnellan

This story left a huge smile on my face, not just for the life-affirming theme, but for the simplicity and leanness of the writing – qualities I strive for in my own writing. I love the idea of Thanks being objects to be displayed and judged (the best Thanks are the ones with the biggest appendages of course). But we all know that the best Thanks are really the little ones given in private. Excellent.

They Always Boast by Jim M

I love the voice in this story, and there’s some great lines: “he wins it open, then loses it”, “slots ching and pour”. A cautionary tale. If you have a system to beat the house, keep it to yourself. But as the title says, they always boast. Well done Jim.

The Deal by Geoff Holme

You really feel for this couple. They have “mortgaged their future” to achieve their desire. You can’t blame them for taking up the sinister professor’s offer. But maybe they should have read the small print. I love the incorporation of the photo prompt (“her belly expanded like an inflatable pig”), and the ending is chilling. Well done Geoff.

Now, without further ado, here’s what judge, Marie McKay, had to say about it all:

This is my first time judging and, albeit clichéd to say this, you made it very difficult for me. You are such a talented bunch! When I saw the photo prompt, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the stories were so varied. There were futuristic and humorous stories. There were themes of consumerism, greed and murder. There were other surprises along the way, too, including Extreme Bingo and a mention of Nessie. Thank you, all, for allowing me the pleasure of reading your incredible material.

Here goes with the judging:

Honourable Mention

When Turkeys Fly by Voimaoy

This is a hugely entertaining story. I loved the fantastic end line that managed to incorporate ‘television presenter speak’ and one of the required bookends with great panache.

3rd Place

Carnival in the After by Nancy Chenier

This haunting tale of the Before and After is full of wonderful imagery. We are never told exactly what the event is that has pared people down. Whether it is some type of apocalyptic event or huge financial recession the characters are caught up in, the language describing its effects is stunning.

People ‘pay their barter, linger at the exhibits…’ depicting perhaps a longing for food or just even a purpose.

‘Their hungry gazes rake over the animals.’ This line has so much impact. This world is grim and its closing words underline its terrible hardship, ‘They’ll come from miles around to take whatever we’re giving.’ Fantastic writing.

2nd Place

Traditions by Carlos Orozco

The dialogue between 88 and 10 is sharp and poignant. The reverence 10 displays for the corporations of their forefathers’ time is a brilliant piece of irony. ‘When the sky blackened on Friday’ is a captivating line followed up by another excellent piece of irony in the description ‘day of Macy’ that seems to attribute an almost religious aspect to a day of consumerism. Using 10’s skewed view of history to explore themes of Capitalism was a very effective and clever tool. A smart piece of writing.

Winner

Not me- not today by John Cassidy

I love how skilfully the author tackles huge themes in this piece of micro fiction.

‘Thanks a bunch Uncle Sam.’ Is an excellent opener to set the tone. By the end of the second sentence we have a clear idea of this character’s history. This story has many layers. We have the narrator’s opinion of the parade’s pink elephant beautifully depicted in this wonderful image: ‘OK for a ball game, I guess, with wide eyed kids hunting their heroes between hot dogs.’

Then we are in the reality of the war zone, with ‘cowering widows’ terrified of their ‘liberators’. The final line, ‘I’m done with giving’ is poignant and encapsulates this veteran’s disillusionment expertly.

Well done on writing such a powerful story in so few words.

Not me- not today

John Cassidy

Thanks a bunch Uncle Sam. Two sweltering summers and frost bitten winters and this is what it’s come to – inflating a pink elephant. Reward for a vet who’s lost an eye.

These guys don’t get it. Don‘t get my mood today.

A pink elephant. OK for a ball game, I guess, with wide eyed kids hunting their heroes between hot dogs.
Today, no.
Nothing to be grateful for. Neither me nor those cowering widows with frightened stares as I ‘liberated’ them.

Don’t tell me “cheer up, buddy.” You don’t know what a buddy is.

Let’s get this done. You guys go home and gorge yourselves.

I’m done with giving.

Nov 272014
 

Happy Thanksgiving! Our friends in the U.S. are celebrating today, so let’s join them.

The Thanksgiving Day holiday traces its origins back to 1621, where at the Plymouth Plantation 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans sat down to a harvest feast after a successful growing season. It became a federal holiday in 1863 when President Lincoln proclaimed a national day of:

Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

Today, as well as giving thanks, the holiday is celebrated by spending time with family, enjoying foods of the season (especially turkey), charitable giving, watching and playing football, and watching the parade. Let’s join in the celebrations with this week’s photo prompt:

Public Domain Image

Public Domain Image.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Marie McKay, winner of MB1.07. Read her winning story here, and what she has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with THANKS and ending with GIVING and incorporating the photo prompt.

Who?

Anyone, but especially you!

Why?

Why not! Because it’s fun. Because it’s a challenge. Because the winner will receive their own winner’s page, their story on the winning stories list, a ‘who is the the author’ feature to be posted next week, entry into the ‘Micro Bookend of the Year’ competition, and a copy of this year’s winning stories compilation.

When?

Now! Get your entry in BEFORE 5:00 am Friday (UK time: http://time.is/London).

Where?

Here!

How?

Post your story in the comments section. Include the word count and your Twitter username (if you’re Twitterized). Don’t forget to read the full rules before submitting your story.

Anything else?

Please give your story a title. It will not be included in the word count.

Please try to leave comments on a couple of other stories. It’s all part of the fun, and everyone likes feedback!

Remember, only stories that use the bookends exactly as supplied (punctuation is allowed) will be eligible to win.

Who is Marie McKay?

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Nov 252014
 

Marie McKayMy full name is Elaine Marie McKay. I think, at some point, I tried to have a pseudonym, but it turns out I’m rubbish at being mysterious. My husband and I have four young children. Since taking a break from my career, I have tried to write more. I have had a few flash fiction pieces published. Most recently, I had a photo story published in 100 word story.

My flash fiction tends towards dark themes, and I do like to experiment with form.

Marie has very kindly agreed to judge this week’s contest. Read her Micro Bookends 1.07winning story, then read on to learn a little more about her and her writing.

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? Thank you. I started at the end. I liked the image of corpses topping and tailing. It felt like a strong image that could incorporate one of the prompts without feeling forced. Then I worked backwards trying to figure out what might have brought those circumstances about. The photo prompt itself got me thinking about vaccination programmes.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? The shorter the better for me. I do worry about my lack of stamina! I think precision of language has to be key. The title can be really useful for setting the scene, allowing you to get some things said before you’ve started.

Why do you like flash fiction? I like that I get to complete something. I also love trying to get words to really pull their weight in a story. I think it is an area where you can experiment with form and try out different ideas.

Been writing long? I have been writing flash fiction for about two years.

You write anything else? I have tried my hand at writing texts for children’s picture books.

Any advice for other flash writers? Enjoy the genre.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? I am very honoured to be taking part in the Flashdogs Anthology.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life.

Micro Bookends 1.07 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.07 – Results
Nov 232014
 
Photo Credit: British Red Cross via CC.

Photo Credit: British Red Cross via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Jeez! I’d forgotten how difficult judging is. There was nothing ‘mock’ about the trouble I had picking this week’s winners. So high was the standard of all the entries this week that I could have picked an entirely different set of winners and still been satisfied that I’d picked the best stories.

There were some great interpretations of the prompt: war, vaccinations, dragons. Some of your stories made me laugh, some made me think, some put me off my dinner.

Before I announce the winners, here’s my thoughts on the stories that didn’t quite make into the winner’s circle:

News of the Weird by Josh Bertetta

It was great to see Josh joining us this week. Unfortunately, he fell slightly afoul of the rules by putting an s on the closing bookend – yes we’re that strict here! We’re also fair, and all stories are seen by the judge and receive feedback.

This story certainly lived up to the title. As soon as “odd skin growths around the posterior pelvic region” are mentioned you know where it’s headed, but getting there is great fun! The sinister doctor is on trial while the poor victims of his experiments are awaiting surgery to have their bony protuberances removed. It’s a fun story, but like a lot of this week’s stories has a whiff of truth around it. Josef Mengele was said to befriend the children in Auschwitz by offering them sweets before performing barbaric experiments on them.

The Mutant’s Tale by Voimaoy

A very original take on the prompt. It made me think of a post-nuclear war situation. Some lovely description of the villagers: “grinning gap teeth and missing limbs in ragged clothes”, and I loved the alliteration in the line “a bottle for the boy with the bad eye.” Whether the cat women intended good or evil we’ll never know. “”We don’t want mutants here.”” a villager shouts. “She vanished, with a flick of her tail.” Great.

Nil Nocere by Stephanie Ellis

A great title: No Harm from the principle of non-maleficence, or first do no harm. Dr. Meglun (sounds like another infamous Dr.) clearly has done harm but he’s about to get his reward. I love how this quickly switches from the Dr. playing along with a child patient, to the child becoming something else and taking the upper hand in a big way – “”I said listen,” snapped the boy” – a chilling line, as is “the doctor looked into the child’s eyes and saw the fires of hell.” Excellent writing.

The ‘D’ word by Jim M

The child’s fever is brilliantly shown with his delirious ramblings. I really liked the description of the underground as “booming tubular caverns”. You can understand how the other people in the cavern must be feeling with all the talk of death so you can kind of understand why the nurse threatens to give him a sore tail. But come on, he’s a sick child! Well done.

Pacification by Carlos

I couldn’t decide if this was a case of cabin fever with a very extreme cure, or a case of madness. Either way it’s a great story told entirely in dialogue. And I love the last last line “If she were a dog, she’d be wagging her tail.” That’s a successful lobotomy then? Nice work.

Grim Laughter by Brett Milam

“Mock the living by pretending death…” is one of the best openings this week. A disagreement between a doctor and nurse about whether or not to tell the children and their parents they are dying or if they should keep playing “the stethoscope game”. I love the final line too: “joy, even if futile, has it’s merits, like why we find joy in watching a dog chase its tail.” You’ve really got the hang of this bookends thing!

The Cats Curse by Stella Turner

“He doesn’t know his bible like I do!” said the mother about the priest after he said Sharon was not a biblical name. I love this little touch. Jeremiah’s brother Mock is fond of cats which may be his undoing. While Jeremiah is pronounced “fit to fight Hitler” poor Mock is given chocolate and sent on his way. He later dies from consumption they said, but Jeremiah isn’t convinced. A great story.

An Air Raid by Jacki Donnellan

Most of the stories this week were dark. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it was really refreshing to read a lighter take on the prompt. The titular air raid involved dragon’s eggs! Some were collected, some were eaten. The smug doctor didn’t indulge, but the patient obviously has (scaly chest, sparks flying from his mouth) and so has the nurse “I’ll wear my cape if my wings keep growing, but glad my skirt still hides my tail.” Great story.

This Way to Manhood by Matt L.

This is one of those stories that make you wonder what on earth is going on. In a good way. Young men paraded in front of caged women where they have their defects pointed out to a baying crowd. Sounds like a good Saturday night. I loved the line “shallow puddles of nervous vomit wetted my bare soles”. Our hero thinks better of it and turns tail. Good choice. Good (if weird) story!

Festung Breslau by Geoff Holme

A great story set in a factual situation with a fictional character: Eberhard Mock, hero of Death in Breslau. Very clever. The descriptions really give you an insight into how terrible the conditions must have been: “the sickly were weeded out…rations given to the rest.” I don’t know what Himmelmann has done, but it must be terrible for Mock to be oblivious to the suffering around him in his attempts to find him.

At War by Nancy Chenier

War of a different kind here. Some very powerful imagery: “bombs can’t touch the evil worming into these very tunnels”, “no will to act on behalf of the light”, and of course the stunning final line: “You’ll understand once I get the swaddling off and we behold its barbed tail.” You get the feeling that with an audience as captive as this he might just get his message across.

Absolution by Meg Kovalik

I can picture the old lady very clearly from the great descriptions: the oversized handbag and her small, the velvet hat, her pacing like a caged animal. I was not expecting the ending – the old lady is a suicide bomber. The feeling of claustrophobia in the panic-filled bunker comes across brilliantly as does the lady’s deranged smile and the dog’s wagging tail.

Honourable Mentions

Nipped In The Bud by Ed Broom

I loved how this story went from light to dark very quickly. You have the terrible joke (“It’s like Piccadilly Circus in here!”) that everyone laughs at (otherwise you’d cry I suppose) and the orange that Reg has miraculously procured. Then the dark: a crush on the stairs and Reg’s demise. I also liked the theme of fruit – mock orange, a whiff of citrus, never tasting the fruit, even ‘crush’ made me think of a refreshing orange drink. The final scene stays with you: bodies laid out nose to tail.

It’s Always Tea Time by Image Ronin

A great set-up here: in an underground tunnel in a hostile world a drug addict steals from sleeping people to feed his habit. The descriptions of the tattoos in the opening lines are great – I especially like the “dark forest” of the man’s stomach and how the “canvas” snores and rolls over. The Alice in Wonderland theme ties everything together with the character exchanging his swag for drugs and following the rabbit into the tunnel of light.

A Letter to the Frontline by Jim M

A letter sent to a soldier on the front line. It deals with trivial things, how the person at home takes the other’s photo to bed, how they miss them, how Dane misses them, how their father can’t remember his email login. A very original tie-in to the photo prompt in the form of a fancy dress party where someone went as an olden time nurse. What made this story for me were the two references that bring the idea of a letter to the front line right up to date: the reference to email, and the fact the letter is written by a man.

Joint 3rd Place

I was just about to toss a coin to pick a third place story but I’d have been doing one of these great stories a disservice. And it’s my site so I can do what I want!

Fodder by Karl A Russell

This is pure horror. It starts with a great title: fodder meaning food and a consumable – in this case the children are both. “The children will win the war”, the Dr. says, but they won’t see the end of it. The nurse has her reservations but still passes the scalpel when required, so you know the situation must be dire. Filling the bombs with children’s brains is a great take on a smart bomb, and using the bones as ballast (not before feeding the flesh to the parents of course) is inspired.

Birdsong by Grace Black

From the names (Gunther and Walter) and language (dummkopf) I assumed these children were German which is a nice twist. I also like that it is told from the POV of a bookish boy (the mockingbird) who gets his revenge on the school-yard bully. Poor Gunther never really stood a chance, and when he is tricked into a game of chance he can’t win “the Blitz of Gunther” (a great spin on the Blitz) is on. The tortured mockingbird gets his revenge: “You lose.”

2nd Place

Atom Bombs and Other Childhood Fears by Matt L.

I love the background of this story: in a world where atom bombs are a real threat, an examination by the doctor can be just as terrifying. The descriptions of the Dr. are excellent: ears like “melting taffy”, eyes like “black marbles frying in melted butter”, those wiggling, waggling nose hairs. What made this story for me was the line “do communist kids have to put up with this?” It puts everything into perspective and suggests that despite our political or religious differences, we all have to endure the same hardships.

Winner

The Nation’s State of Mind by Marie McKay

This story just grabbed me from the opening sentence and wouldn’t let go. The “mock vaccinations” are working to heal the nation in this post war (or apocalyptic) scenario. I love the opening descriptions – “clearing their gurgling lungs”, “sewing together their broken spirits”. “The Bowler Hats” is a fantastic description of ‘the Man’, then the line that left me open mouthed for the rest of the story – “the most cost effective placebo since Jesus Christ.” Wow.

But even placebos can have side effects and once rumour starts to spread the nation reacts. The words running together gives a great sense of panic and within the panic the people look for an excuse for their actions – “TheygaveusdrugstomakeusKill“.

The last line has a real feeling of claustrophobia. The people revolt in the underground shelters leaving a trail of brutalised bodies in their wake.

This is not only great writing but it has a strong moral message about the consequences of taking the easy course, and the panic that can be caused when people are not given the truth – a lesson a lot of people in positions of power could learn from. Well done Marie.

The Nation’s State of Mind

Marie McKay

Mock vaccinations were clearing their gurgling lungs, drying their weeping sores, sewing together their broken spirits, stitching up their despair.

The Bowler Hats congratulated themselves on employing the most cost effective placebo since Jesus Christ.

But words got out and spread like a mutating virus:

TheygaveusnothingTheygaveussomethingTheygaveusdrugs
toKillusTheygaveusdrugstomakeusKill

So in the safety of shelters tucked underground, they bludgeoned and gouged, raged and violated, tortured and brutalised until only their corpses were left to top and tail.

Nov 202014
 

Welcome to Micro Bookends 1.07. Can I get anyone a drink? How about a Shirley Temple (ginger ale, a splash of grenadine, garnished with a maraschino cherry), an Arnold Palmer (iced tea and lemonade), a Roy Rogers (cola and grenadine), a Freddie Bartholomew (ginger ale with lime juice), or a Tortuga (iced tea and brown sugar, garnished with cinnamon and a lime wedge)? What do you mean there’s no alcohol in them? Of course there isn’t, they’re mocktails!

Someone who enjoys a refreshing cranberry mocktail is teetotal U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who celebrates his 72nd birthday today. Mr Biden has something of a reputation for opening his mouth before engaging his brain. In 2009 Mr Biden may have disclosed the existence of a secret bunker under the old U.S. Naval Observatory (the official home of the incumbent VP) from where previous VP Dick Cheney was said to have orchestrated the War on Terror following the 9/11 attacks.

Let’s help Mr Biden celebrate his special day with this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: British Red Cross via CC.

Photo Credit: British Red Cross via CC.

The Judge

Yours truly will be donning his judging hat this week.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with MOCK and ending with TAIL and incorporating the photo prompt.

Who?

Anyone, but especially you!

Why?

Why not! Because it’s fun. Because it’s a challenge. Because the winner will receive their own winner’s page, their story on the winning stories list, a ‘who is the the author’ feature to be posted next week, entry into the ‘Micro Bookend of the Year’ competition, and a copy of this year’s winning stories compilation.

When?

Now! Get your entry in BEFORE 5:00 am Friday (UK time: http://time.is/London).

Where?

Here!

How?

Post your story in the comments section. Include the word count and your Twitter username (if you’re Twitterized). Don’t forget to read the full rules before submitting your story.

Anything else?

Please give your story a title. It will not be included in the word count.

Please try to leave comments on a couple of other stories. It’s all part of the fun, and everyone likes feedback!

Remember, only stories that use the bookends exactly as supplied (punctuation is allowed) will be eligible to win.

Remind me, who is KM Zafari?

 Who is the author?  Comments Off on Remind me, who is KM Zafari?
Nov 192014
 

KM ZafariKM Zafari loves writing and reading flash fiction! She goes by thebatinthehat because Poe and Seuss are her literary heroes, and she usually writes dark or very silly. She won the Writer’s Digest Shortest Short Story contest in 2012.

Check out her website, www.thebatinthehat.com, follow her on Twitter, and take a look at her author page on Amazon.com.

KM is our first TWO-TIME winner! Read her 1.04winning story, then read on to learn what she has to say about her 1.06winning story and her love of flash fiction:

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? I thought a lot about the great background information given, then the photo prompt. I’m an atheist, but I’m fascinated by the symbolism and ritual involved in religion, by the beauty and purity of true belief. So, I thought of a blind nun and what would it be like to be her.

I began with this idea that she was “reading” by a candle, not for warmth or light (obviously) but because she didn’t want to startle the other nuns when they came in. She felt very lonely to me. Old. The world was moving on without her. Even in clergy, I imagine there’s some sort of generational shift. So I pictured her spending her time in devotion.

The dog came in because I was toying with the whole “word of God/dog” thing. I initially thought I might try something humorous. But I just felt this lovely sentiment for and from this woman who is coming on the end of her years, and I didn’t want her to be alone. And it occurred to me that she had this companion, and she had her faith. She probably felt like she had a full life. The only “person” who could understand that they weren’t missing out on the joys of life would be someone in a similar situation.

Wow, it is incredibly self-indulgent to ramble on with an explanation that is longer than the actual piece. lol But I really liked this woman, and it was hard for me to cut out half of her story.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? I naturally write short. I’ve tried to write novels, but I have yet to succeed in finishing one. I just think in short form. Also, my degree is in screenwriting, and the “economy of words” philosophy has been drilled into my head for several years, now.

Why do you like flash fiction? I love it, love it, love it! I’m always fascinated to see what people come up with. You wind up being able to digest many more stories and experience so many new worlds than you could if you were just reading novels, which feeds my story addiction. It also gives one leeway to play with words and not worry you are going too far with your prose or have that fear of failure. If you don’t like what you’ve written, you can just throw it out and start over again.

Been writing long? I started writing when I was in third grade but never really took it seriously, until recently. I had to go back to it. I was losing my sanity without it.

You write anything else? I love writing screenplays.

Any advice for other flash writers? Don’t stop! It will really get your creative juices flowing, and once the pipeline is open, all of your writing will improve. Keep at it, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t win. I submitted my first Twit fic to an online flash fiction magazine, and it was rejected. I was so crushed, I almost quit writing, altogether. “It’s not even worth a dollar?!” Later, that same piece won the Writer’s Digest Shortest Short Story contest. It’s not even my favorite – far from it. You never know what people are going to like, so don’t worry if one person somewhere doesn’t like something. Don’t give up.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? I’m putting my second flash fiction anthology together, and I have about a million stories that are half finished. I guess what comes next will be whatever my brain can stick with long enough.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? I’m a sucker for the classics and anything that’s funny. But if I were to choose a contemporary one, I’d say Through A Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen. It’s a historical drama, so a lot of people would be inclined to label it women’s literature. But it was so beautifully written and so very sad. It stayed with me, and I think I cried for about two weeks. I’m not sure if men would like it or not, but the author has an amazing gift with words.

Nov 162014
 
Photo Credit: Flik via CC.

Photo Credit: Flik via CC.

What a fantastic round of Micro Bookends! There were so many different interpretations of the photo prompt: some of you embraced the nun, others the long and winding path, some the trees, and others the fog. All the stories this week really were fantastic. There wasn’t a duff’un amongst ’em.

This week’s judge, Matt Lashley, really had an unenviable task, but before I hand over to him here are my thoughts on the stories that didn’t quite make it into the winner’s circle:

Trek by Grace Black

Grace hosts Three Line Thursday, a weekly short poetry/writing contest, and this story really showcases her love of words. Every line is quotable, and the rhyming is beautiful. Fantastic writing.

The Twisted Path by Holly Geely

A great whimsical tale from Holly. I love the names: Bouffanticles, the Swampimus monster. As Nancy pointed out, a mondegreen has sent our hero on a wide-goose chase (though I think that’s technically an eggcorn).

Where is Mother Superior? by Voimaoy

Voimaoy gave us a very literal take on the photo prompt. The elderly nun walking in a misty forest with her walking sticks. The story cleverly leads you to believe she has wandered off during one of her delirious spells. We can all breathe a sigh of relief however; she’s found some mushrooms in the forest and is cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

(born Jonathan George Grimby) by Jim M

The first of two excellent entries from Jim M. I love the ‘shockporn’ artist’s portfolio (‘Marriage of Sexy Corpse Girl’, ‘Holocaustorama’, ‘Virgin in the Mist?’) and the fact he was born plain old Jonathan George Grimby. Surely the most original take on the photo prompt this week. Well done.

Saturn District 7 Division HQ by Jim M

Jim M’s second entry ignores our dear nun entirely (she’s transmuted to man with a white bag on his head sitting on a metal chair – brilliant). Our hero is one of those cranks who can locate a missing person by touching their clothes. The story is lifted by the setting (space), the fact that he has described a photo on Priest’s (just a name or a position?) wall, and of course the fact that he’s blind.

Reading Words by Rasha

Rasha has very cleverly linked in the dyslexia theme from my blurb. These word rearrangements can be a bit gimmicky if the story is not there to hold it up. Rasha doesn’t disappoint. There’s some lovely description of words jumping on the page, and how reading is like taking a walk along a misty road. Well done.

Omnipotent by Stephanie Ellis

I enjoyed this one a lot. Word (knowledge?) has disturbed Sister Mary’s previously straight-forward existence, and made her doubt her faith. It’s all the more powerful because Word is not revealed leaving the reader to imagine what has caused this ripple in the good Sister’s life. Excellent.

Heading Toward the Darkness by Carlos

A mother and son are reading together. It’s difficult for Charlie (another nice nod to the dyslexia theme). You can really feel the mother’s frustration, but also love for her son. You feel they’ll get there eventually with hard work and determination. But wait. Charlie has another idea. A chilling ending. Brilliant.

Shapes and Shadows by Stella Turner

A nun in emotional turmoil. A vow once broken can never be repaired. Some lovely description: “I lit up like a neon sign in his sight”, “light obscured by the blind”. I like the two ‘men’ in her life (him and Him). Very clever, and well written.

The Bystander by Image Ronin

A sinister, atmospheric story. I can almost see the fog and smoke. I loved “grinding warm bodies under his heel”, a great description of putting out a cigarette and perhaps foreshadowing what is to come from “the devourer of the blind”. Great.

Faith by Marie McKay

I’m thinking zombies (“not sure which was the worse adversary, disease or its survivors”), but then I often do think zombies! Whatever is lurking in those woods is not good. The dear sister is setting off for the vegetable patch. Things must have gotten desperate. She has her faith but will it be enough? Lovely story.

Stricken by Nancy Chenier

Oh boy, this is good. A mysterious woman walks the woods, word of her power has spread “like wind presaging a storm”. A little girl is dared to touch the woman. Her friends follow her as her “shoes whispered secrets against the gravel”. The girl touches the woman but the outcome was not what they were expecting: her sight was not taken but “a thousand colors glinted in her anguished eyes. “You’re all still blind.” Fantastic descriptions and a very original take on the prompt.

Traveling Haze by Brady Koch

There a lovely touch of the old-school horror about this. James Herbert’s The Fog perhaps. There’s real peril in this story. A couple are about to have a child and can’t leave because the haze is hazardous. The lady in the photo prompt is a nurse coming to help with the breach-birth. It’s unlikely she’ll make it through intact. Will mother and baby? Scary stuff indeed. Google Agent Orange to see what chemical defoliants can do to unborn babies.

Vengeance Is Mine by Geoff Holme

A great story of vengeance. I love the description of Bernadette’s “gallows shuffle” which mirrors the departing nun “limping along the drive”. Great choice of names for that Irish Catholic authenticity.

Now, here’s what judge, Matt Lashley, had to say about it all:

As I began to play literary agent for a day, I quickly noted a running religious theme and assumed either you’d all been under the same tent in a revival meeting the night before or the picture prompt was some type of religious icon. Naturally I went with the tent meeting revival theory because it’s funnier.

Now for the serious, solemn issue of judging. First, congratulations are in order as no story was held in contempt. Surprising, since I usually find at least one story to clamp onto with absolute contempt and seething hostility. But not this week. The criterion on which I based judgement were: story, character, imagery, twist/impact, originality.

There were several ties which I unilaterally broke by casting a pair of dice from a broken Yahtzee game, locks of some old lady’s hair and a chicken foot borrowed from the night’s supper onto a haunted Ouija board.

Honourable Mentions

She Drinketh Up A River by Ed Broom

This was one of the most original takes on the prompt and was capped with a fabulous title. Some of the lingo in the beginning escaped me, but didn’t distract me enough to derail the overall story. I particularly enjoyed the image of a nun at a poker table justifying the means while listing the ends.

I Do Not by Brett Milam

Grotesque, bloody, masticating, spliced insides – the four main elements for any good story, especially a newlywed story. This story punched me in the gut and left me winded. If a ribbon for “Most Visceral” could be awarded, this one gets it. (I think, but am not sure, folks outside the U.S. may not understand the ugly power the word at the center of this piece holds in the U.S.)

Resignation by Meg Kovalik

Sad. Sad. Sad. And poetic. Sad and poetic. Forget what I said earlier about grotesque, bloody, masticating and spliced insides. Condensed dripping mist – that’s the stuff stories are made of. This was a beautiful piece on the universal theme of breaking up is hard to do, but life must go on.

Stormbreak by Karl A Russell

Death and sacrifice. Remember what I said about condensed, dripping mist? Forget it! Death and sacrifice – that’s what makes a great story. This piece was full of great images. The Beast dancing with Sister Sadie was vivid and would make the perfect cover art for the story.

3rd Place

EXCO- by Bunmi Oke

Third place was the hotspot for ties this week. At the end of the day (and at the end of the story), “EXCO-“ had a nice twist that pushed it slightly ahead of the others. The story made me feel sorry for poor Sister Geraldine *spoiler alert* then slapped me silly and into contrite penance with a set of barbed rosary beads.

2nd Place

Folk Tales by Craig Towsley

Where I live, we just finished two days of unremitting snow. But even if I’d been sitting in the sand under the sun sipping a margarita, enjoying the white noise of crashing waves while reading this piece, it would have easily transported me to a small farm in the countryside with yellow and orange trees, browning grass and damp, cooling air. “Auntie” was such a fabulously rich character created in so few words, I was amazed.

Winner

Word of Dog by KM Zafari

Earlier in the week I’d read something written in 1944 that poked fun at a character who’d excitedly asked a companion “Did ya know d-o-g is g-o-d backwards?” So the title of this piece provoked a shallow inhale in preparation for a slow, lazy groan. I was sure whatever the coming groan lacked in energy would be made up for in a series of overly dramatic eye rolls. But neither groan nor eye rolls were to be. “Word of Dog” had all the technical elements of the best flash fiction and tapped into that most important and elusive non-technical element — it made me feel something.

Word of Dog

KM Zafari

Word by word, her fingers trailed along the page. The raised dots were well worn from years of reading, and she caressed them gently, reverently, as the familiar sound of paws scratched across the convent floor.

She reached out in anticipation.

Breath by breath, they found one another in their shared darkness, and he nuzzled into her hands, his downy ears like silk upon her weathered skin.

They left for their evening walk in silence, love filling the void. She followed his sounds down the tree-lined path, both content to share in the rustling of leaves and cool mist. He, alone, understood that there was no such thing as “blind”.