This week’s prompt and bookends really stirred your creative juices. There were some exceptional stories this week. Thanks to Steven M. Stucko for making sense of it all. Here’s what he had to say:
I very much enjoyed reading the 35 entries in Micro Bookends 1.21 OLD [micro] AGE. There were so many compelling styles and interpretations of the photo and the word prompts that it was difficult to choose finalists. I chose these six exceptional stories because each stayed with me. In some, characters were presented with such great effectiveness that I wanted to know what happened to them later that day. One story, “Lurkers,” has no characters at all but stuck with me nonetheless. Some stories used such vivid imagery that I was fully engaged and felt transported. The dialogue in the more literal interpretations was believable and honest. Over all I was impressed by the whole lot and was reminded that I have to step up my game if I want to compete. Thanks for the opportunity to participate.
Method In His Madness by Ed Broom
This is my favorite submission using the more literal narrative of the photo prompt. The dialogue flowed freely like two guys walking and talking in simple short sentences. The description of the old man was spot on. I know Old Sock. I’ve debated everything from philosophy, art, and religion with the guy. I’ve bought him countless drinks. I enjoyed the curious and fascinating one liner: “he always makes them taste it first.” Why? I was left to ponder. The writer cleverly describes how the wise old bum both attracts and repels. A certain crowd is fascinated by people like Old Sock. There’s one in every pub. And you’re right. The guy needs a shower.
Old Man’s End by stu06bloc9
This is another terrific literal interpretation of the photo. I felt like I was standing right next to the couple as they looked upon the installation of street art. Many times have I stood in front of art and scratched my head. I was glad the characters had a guidebook so I could look over their shoulders. And what did the street artist intend to convey? A fallen angel, there for the duration? Did the two characters even try to understand, or were they just frustrated? Should we, as the reader, try to think about the story inside the story, or are we just ready to walk with Selina and Theo down the street to the next piece of Live Art? I found that intriguing. I also liked the cynical voice of Theo as he says those things I think all the time but never say. Well told tale.
A Renaissance of Bitterness by Geoff Le Pard
Engaging literal translation of the image. I could see the model shifting uncomfortably and the artist constantly telling him to be still. I was inside his head as he thought the thoughts of someone who is forced to be quiet and motionless. He had it all, lost it, and now must find humble work to get by. Rich sods and phony artists fill his life. One guy wants Botticelli, the other gets vermicelli. The words made me smile as the protagonist inserts a joke into his incessant complaining. At least the guy still has a sense of humor. Nice job.
Exhale by Brett Milam
This was profound, yet also describes the “every man.” Ruminations and regrets are the cancer that we all fight. Smothering us with “a corrosive blanket of discomfort,” they bring us painfully to an early death. “Love gone awry” really can feel like a “murder of coupling.” I was jolted by the abrupt introduction of the need to “soak up this spilled blood.” My mind raced to the scariest interpretations. How wrong was this relationship? That perfect insertion of a few words told an enormous piece of violent history and a life filled with emotional wreckage. I can see how the protagonist found his final breath to be his most welcomed.
Lurkers by Dave James Ashton
I had to read this several times. I felt the need to study the words. It was so intense that it made the muscles in my back tighten. I don’t like thinking about such dark places and this writer brought me to those terrifying corners and held me there for what felt like an eternity. I still can’t shake this. The first two sentences are brilliant. I’ll carry them with me for a while. I’ll recite them to friends who will ask where I heard them. I’ll say, “Oh, someone from a writer’s group I belonged to years ago…” The fact that the writer never clearly tells the reader what the enemy is (“they, their, these, those, them, monsters from long ago”) makes the unidentified wickedness otherworldly and easier for us to think: my God, does this demon, with its “evil grip” reside in me? Of course it does. It’s part of being human. That’s the scary part.
Soulmates by Nancy Chenier
This piece reads like a poem. I treaded down memory lane with this narrator as relationship after relationship was recalled and told from the ankles down. Sole-mates indeed. In one or two sentences I understood each partner and the drama of the break up. The final ped-paramore is the unfortunate relationship many distraught souls find most alluring. Alcohol makes us think we are mountains instead of mole hills. We believe the warmth we feel in our hearts will never grind our “lofty peaks to weary slopes.” Invariably it does. The false joy felt with such a devilish mistress will undoubtedly end with the protagonist being stomped barefoot like so many grapes. A common tale told exceptionally well.
Old as the hills and heart just as trodden. Everyone I’ve ever loved has ground my lofty peaks to weary slopes. Sanae crushed me under her hopscotch Keds, her silky black braids flicking farewell. Natalie next, her DocMartins did harsh platonic work on my devotion, anarchy symbol imprints. Roger was a dabbler and me an equal-opportunity paramour until his plaid high-tops dribbled my blood tastefully down the pavement. Lady Luck, Lady Justice, Father Time—all similarly crushingly cruel.
Ah, but my sweet barefoot Ouzo! Our bacchanal never ends. Quick, quick, look upon me, dearest. For in your eyes, I am mighty Mount Olympus and this is our Golden Age.