Micro Bookends 1.40 to 1.52 – Voting Results

 Voting  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.40 to 1.52 – Voting Results
Oct 252015
 

Thanks to everyone who voted for your favourite stories. I’m not going to release how many votes each entry got because I don’t want to prejudice future voting.

Photo Credit: Kodak Views via CC.

Photo Credit: Kodak Views via CC.

Four stories floated to the top this quarter:

Stages of Love by KM Zafari

A Winter’s Tale by Geoff Holme

In Memoriam by Rebekah Postupak

Miscalculation by KM Zafari

Congratulations, KM, Geoff, and Rebekah! Please contact me here with your postal address so I can send you your book.

 

Micro Bookends 1.40 to 1.52 – Voting

 Voting  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.40 to 1.52 – Voting
Oct 192015
 
Photo Credit: Kodak Views via CC.

Photo Credit: Kodak Views via CC.

It’s time to find the top three stories for the fourth quarter of Micro Bookends Year One. Below, I’ve compiled the winning entries from rounds 1.40 to 1.52. Below them is the voting gadget. Please take a moment to read the stories then vote for your favourite three. Voting is open until 5 a.m. on Thursday 22nd October. I’ll announce the results on Saturday 24th October.

The authors of the three stories that receive the most votes will each receive a copy of Writing Short Stories by Ailsa Cox. That’s a real book with paper and ink and that new-book smell! The winners will also go through to the Micro Bookend of the year competition to be held soon.


1.40: Stages of Love by KM Zafari

Stage 1

Was when we met on the subway. You, in your overcoat and hat. Me, sneaking glances over the paper I was pretending to read.

Stage 2

Was when we found out we weren’t alone in the relationship. You, shaking in the doctor’s office. Me, holding your hand.

Stage 3

Was when I asked you to marry me. You, too sick to walk. Me, standing in the snow with a sign proclaiming my love.

Stage 4

Was both the happiest and saddest time of my life. You, beautiful in your wedding dress. Me, in tears both times I wore that suit.

Beloved Wife. The tombstone bears your new name.


1.41: A Winter’s Tale by Geoff Holme

“‘Catch me? You couldn’t catch a cold!’ Remember you used to tease me with that when we played tag as kids?”

My breath condensed into clouds in the railyard where I’d found him . I cradled Benjy in my lap as he stared into the distance, eyes like glass beads.

The syringe fell from his arm.

I thought my older brother was too wasted to hear my words, until I heard him whisper, “Momma always said life was like a box of chocolates: when you reach the bottom, you don’t have many choices.”

“Yeah, man.” I choked, a tear rolling down my cheek. “She always was good for a memorable phrase.”


1.42: The Weight by Karl A. Russell

“Carry the tent first, then the beers.”

Simon sighed, hefted the tent and plunged into the freezing mud. Jay grinned.

“I’ll take the rucksack, then piggyback you across, yeah?”

The girl in the pink Metallica shirt giggled drunkenly.

It took a while, but she was eventually ferried to dry land. Jay and Simon slogged on towards the Pyramid Stage.

Simon sighed deeply.

“That was wrong.”

Jay shrugged.

“Let it go, man! You want a clear conscience, the Krishnas do free lentil curry… Or…”

He pulled out a pink Metallica purse and checked the contents.

“We can get burgers and beers before the Foos start.”

Simon’s stomach gurgled muddily.

“You’re on.”


 1.43: In Memoriam by Rebekah Postupak

Plot (single): $2,000

Grave liner: $1,800 (seriously?)

Opening/closing of grave: $1,475 (note—Saturday surcharge because they can, the vultures)

Maintenance fee: $250

Headstone (includes installation): $3,200 (note: sappy text still needed for engraver)

Coffin (“solid cherry”?? as if. What a ripoff): $3,490

Flowers for funeral service & gravesite: donated by friends and family (awesome!!!!!!!! <– write thank you notes)

Funeral home fees (incl embalming & death certificate): $3,800 (Q: tip for (smarmy) director??)

Post-funeral dinner: covered by in-laws (TELL SOPHIA TO NOT LET M-I-L COOK!! BLECH!!!!!!!!!!)

Anticipated total: $16,015

Anticipated life insurance payout: $2,000,000

Whoops, hahaha! Almost forgot!

Dead body: kiss (disgusting! HELLO BREATHMINT) + $5 martini with a twist.


1.44: Submission by Steph Ellis

Love is a light that has faded from my life. The roads I have taken, dark and lonely. My journey, as I cast off friends like worn-out clothes, is one they cannot follow. It is obsession that has brought me here, to this place.

Will my words gain my admittance, my acceptance? Or will I be rejected and be sent back into the void?

I cling to my sanity, now wafer thin and leave my offering at these gates of perdition, my words, my other self. And wonder again at how I have been consumed by this craft.


 1.45: A Hungry Business by @dazmb

“…body and mind aligned; push back into downward dog”.

The blond, skinny decaf lattes who took this class meant nothing to Durga.

Her attention returned to the class instructor. ‘Yogi’ she insisted on being called, as if she understood the deeper rituals.

Durga channelled her energy into the tiger’s eyes taped to her chakras.

“…and forward on all fours, left leg raised, into tiger pose.”

Summoning the power of her namesake Deity, she willed the transformation.

Padding forward, amidst the screams of fear, she growled deeply “I’ve come to devour…I mean take this lesson.”

She calmly pawed her whiskers. ‘Think of it as yoga, with some minor modifications…”


1.46: When the Student Becomes the Master by Brian S Creek

X.

Y.

Z.

How about W, for ‘who gives a crap’. Pythagoras, fractions, algebra; it’s all gibberish.

Graffiti on the page.

My son looks up with patient eyes. I’m supposed to be helping him with his homework but he’s the one teaching me.

I struggled with it back in the day and it ain’t no easier now. I used to blame the dyslexia but Frank down the road doesn’t let it beat him down.

My three-year-old walks over to me holding his new favourite toy, a second-hand Mr Spell. Damned thing is probably smarter than me too. It mocks me.

“Would you like to play a game?”


1.47: Da Capo All’Infinito by Steven O. Young Jr.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

I pull a cigarette out of the pack. “You mean ‘British’?”

“No, ‘Brithic.’” I know. “You probably don’t believe me, but there’re aliens!”

“Oh yeah?” Smoke limits my words.

“They took me in my sleep one night.” You weren’t sleeping. “They experimented on my brain.” They were trying to repair the damages I’d done to your jigsawed skull. “I bet they don’t realize I remember it all.” I wish you did. Or could.

The ashes collapse as your story ends and I dread your moment of silence. Again.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

I pull a cigarette out of the pack.


1.48: Merry Andrew by Karl A. Russell

Merry Andrew jigs and reels,
A-dancing through the fayre,
To frighten boys
Deflower maids
And tug their flowered hair.

In motley caravan he comes,
To sing the summer in,
On potter’s fields
And plague pit mounds,
With revelry and sin.

A powdered face, a rictus grin,
A crown of jangled bells,
But none dare meet
His shadowed eyes,
Nor hear the tale he tells.

For when the dance is over,
And all the sinning’s done,
The tent’s took down,
The earth stripped bare,
To claim them one by one.

And Merry Andrew travels on,
To spread his lies like cancer,
Of summer’s warmth
And endless joy,
That damned infernal prankster.


1.49: Mother Knows Bert by Ed Broom

JAZZ COMES!

Mum’s right, of course, in her own unpredictable Nokia text speak. Lazy bones is exactly what I am. I should have popped round today to say hello and to talk about Col’s birthday. Unlucky lad had his Raleigh nicked last week and she wants me to find him a replacement on eBay.

THIS BILE. WHAT SHOULD I SAX?

Pay what you like, Mum. This 18 speed hybrid looks good, though. Auction ends later tonight and the current price is £40. I think it would be a steal at twice that.

OK. NAY 100 POUND. INCREASE MY AGE.


1.50: Cortigiana di Lume by Bill Engleson

Perfect, she is! Perfectomundo, she might once have said! In certain casually carnal company. In the end, all she could think, sadly, was how perfunctory it had become!

Glenys Walters sits before the mirror. Her finger traces a wrinkle that insists on flinging itself out from the left side of her face right near where her upper and lower lips converge, that little fleshy junction, spiraling into a demisemihemidemisemiquaver.

She has risen too far above her station; her wiles, her guile, strings pulled and plucked, the back stairways where the aromatics wander in search of favors, ever pandering for her piquant pleasures, for the courtesans indulgently intoxicating pitch.


1.51: Blackbird by Karl A. Russell

“Civil partnership, is that it?”

“What? No Mum, that’s something else.”

“Oh. Well, what’s that other one then? Humourist or whatever?”

I can’t talk to her, so I look out of the window instead. The smokers in the shelter look like bedraggled birds, waiting to spread dressing-gown wings and soar toward the sun. I wish I hadn’t quit.

“We were partners though.”

I look back, feeling my throat tighten.

“I know Mum. I know.”

She looks like a little bird herself, perched at the bedside. She’s still holding his hand.

“It’s called a humanist ceremony. Yeah, I think he’d like that.”

She smiles through tears.

“Humanist. Yes, that’s right.”


1.52: Miscalculation by KM Zafari

Five years old. Capricious. Mischievous smile. He could still feel her tiny arms wrapped around his neck. “Faster, Grandpa!” she’d shout as he galloped around the house like a pony.

What a softie she turned him into. He, of all people, whose very name inspired fear.

Loving her left him vulnerable; he knew that. But there were unspoken rules, lines that shouldn’t be crossed.

Caskets were not supposed to be that small.

If they thought they’d finally broken him, they were right. Was it time to hang his hat? Perhaps.

But not yet.

He checked his watch. Dinnertime – perfect.

They were about to learn the true meaning of “family”.


Oct 182015
 
Photo Credit: Enric Fradera via CC.

Photo Credit: Enric Fradera via CC.

Good evening, afternoon, or morning to the international flash fiction community. What a fantastic round of MB that was: forty-three great entries and a few new faces (welcome, friends from IICS). Before the results, some announcements:

At 5 a.m. BST Tomorrow (Monday 19th October), voting will open for the best stories of this quarter. You’ll be voting for your top three stories from MB1.40 to MB1.52. The authors of the top three stories will each receive a copy of Writing Short Stories by Ailsa Cox (that’s a real book with paper and ink and that new-book smell), and will also go forward to the Micro Bookend of the year contest to be held soon.

Remember, after this round I’ll be taking a break while I deal with a major family event. The next contest will (hopefully) be on Thursday the 3rd of December. Watch out for Twitter updates.

Honourable Mentions

Greyscale by Steven O. Young Jr.

A curious story with a nice use of passing time to lead the reader through the story. A very literal use of the photo prompt for the town of Greyscale with its achromatopsia-afflicted (literal or figurative?) inhabitants.

Tippy Toe by Steven M. Stucko

One from the weird drawer the uses a single detail – the pointed leather shoes – from the photo. They’re so pointy that all male members of the proud Shoemaker family (I love the line, “The Shoemakers made sandals for Jesus, for Christ’s sake”) must have their little toes removed at birth to fit into them. Fun.

It Started With A Glyph by Ed Broom

Such a fun premise. A guy can’t get a date because he’s very particular about how she writes her number and uses silly childish rhymes to teach her. Made me chuckle. Still, our man does his duty and takes her dessert order. Great closing line.

The Infamous Uncle Enzo Stops By by AJ Walker

Another fun piece that had me laughing. While most stories had the man in the photo as a menacing figure, this one had him has the hapless Uncle Enzo, smoker of putrid cigars and clearer of restaurants.

The Hit by @dazmb

A very creative story that on another week may have made it into the top three. I love the use of code as the two Mafia men discuss the hit. The golf clubs, tee-off time, is the ball liable to run fast when I start putting. All very clever with a classic closing line, “My respects to your family.”

3rd Place

Courting Danger by Firdaus Parvez

This piece is just crammed full of conflict: the pressure from her mother to marry him to repay ‘the debt’; the fact he’s twice her age and “his huge frame filled the space across from her”; the fact her lover who was trying to persuade her to leave has recently been killed; and the clincher – when she realises the man in front of her was probably responsible for his death. The MC sums up her situation succinctly in the line, “Do I have a choice?” Excellent title too.

2nd Place

Long Shot by Brian S. Creek

So much tension for such a short story! From the details (“drinking his favourite coffee: a cappuccino, with cinnamon and chocolate on top”) you know this operation has been long in the making. We don’t know what the target has done, but the MC dislikes him (“the fat bastard”) and that’s good enough for us. I love the three short, short sentences, “My rifle waits patiently, trigger begging to be squeezed. My target looks up at the sun. My phone beeps.” Then BANG. It’s all over in a moment. Nice closing line.

Winner

Miscalculation by KM Zafari

This emotive piece made me think of two cultural references: the scene in The Godfather where Vito Corleone is frolicking with his grandson in the garden before dying the perfect death (oh, the injustice after he was the mastermind of so much violence) and Vultures by Chinua Achebe where “the Commandant at Belsen Camp going home for the day with fumes of human roast clinging rebelliously to his hairy nostrils will stop at the wayside sweet-shop and pick up a chocolate for his tender offspring waiting at home for Daddy’s return.” Yes, love can be found everywhere even in those “whose very name inspired fear.” The line “caskets were not supposed to be that small” had me reaching for the tissues. And the conclusion brings home the perpetual cycle of violence these people are involved in because you just know their families are going to want revenge…

Miscalculation

KM Zafari

Five years old. Capricious. Mischievous smile. He could still feel her tiny arms wrapped around his neck. “Faster, Grandpa!” she’d shout as he galloped around the house like a pony.

What a softie she turned him into. He, of all people, whose very name inspired fear.

Loving her left him vulnerable; he knew that. But there were unspoken rules, lines that shouldn’t be crossed.

Caskets were not supposed to be that small.

If they thought they’d finally broken him, they were right. Was it time to hang his hat? Perhaps.

But not yet.

He checked his watch. Dinnertime – perfect.

They were about to learn the true meaning of “family”.

Oct 152015
 

Welcome to Micro Bookends 1.52, the last contest before we move into year two. But first, a couple of announcements:

After this round we’ll be voting for our favourite stories from MB1.40 to MB1.52. If you haven’t been a winner yet, this is your last roll of the dice for this quarter. Good luck!

After this round I’ll be taking a break while I deal with a major family event. The next contest will (hopefully) be on Thursday the 3rd of December. Watch out for Twitter updates.

The five families (Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese) are the organized crime families comprising the New York Mafia. The division of the Mafia into the five families happened after the Castellammarese War, a bloody power struggle between Joe ‘The Boss’ Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano. Maranzano won, declared himself capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses) and set about changing the structure of the Mafia in an effort to avoid future gang-wars. As well as dividing territory between the five families, Maranzano also introduced the familiar Mafia hierarchy of boss (capofamiglia), underboss (sotto capo), advisor (consigliere), captain (caporegime), soldier (soldato), and associates. Maranzano was murdered just months after the Castellammarese War. The position of capo di tutti capi was scrapped in favour of The Commission which is still the governing body of the American Mafia today.

Mario Puzo, author of the classic Mafia novel The Godfather, was born on this day in 1920 in New York City. Puzo was born into a poor family from the Province of Avellino, Italy. He joined the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, but due to poor eyesight did not undertake combat duties. Puzo published The Godfather in 1969 after the publisher suggested his earlier novel The Fortunate Pilgrim (a story based on his mother’s honest immigrant struggle for respectability in America) would have sold better if it had more Mafia in it. Puzo also co-wrote the screenplay with Francis Ford Coppola for the 1972 adaptation, The Godfather, for which they won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Puzo died from heart failure in 1999 aged seventy-eight.

Here is this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Enric Fradera via CC.

Photo Credit: Enric Fradera via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is me!

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with FIVE and ending with FAMILIES or FAMILY 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 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, including hyphens and apostrophes, is allowed) will be eligible to win.

Oct 112015
 
Photo Credit: via David Spinks CC.

Photo Credit: David Spinks via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, an announcement:

On Monday the 19th of October, voting will open for the best stories of this quarter. You’ll be voting for your top three stories from MB1.40 to MB1.52. There will be prizes! The top three stories will also go forward to the Micro Bookend of the year contest to be held soon. Remember, you’ve got to be in it to win it, so if you haven’t had a winning story yet, this week’s contest is your last chance for this quarter.

Now please join me in thanking this week’s judge, Bill Engleson. Here’s what he had to say:

I have spent the morning reviewing these excellent entries. I have also felt the piercing pangs of judging. I will never visit a courtroom ever again, either on-line, on the Tube, or in an actual courthouse, without paying huge respect to the lot of the lonely judge.

Without meaning to sound like a wishy-washy, namby pamby non-judgemental sort of guy, may I say that I unreservedly found pleasure in each and every entry.

Another day, one cup of coffee more, or less, a different Toronto Blue Jays game echoing in the background of my Judges Chamber and the selections could have been different.

Anyway, I had a bit of a technological learning curve…new computer that I am slowly, agedly becoming familiar with. Also, if I seemed to have skimped on the length of my comments, I was trying to avoid my penchant for rambling on, a disreputable quality not suited to a micro fiction judge, or so I imagine.

Honourable Mentions

The Summer of Love by @dazmb

The wistfully sad, slightly bitter tone of this ode to the 60’s hooked me. Again, my time, albeit in the less raucous Canadian landscape. The image of idealists having fallen into the self pleasuring grace of gambling added to the sorrow.

CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE MYSTERY OF DORO STREET by Brian S. Creek

Maybe it is my uncomfortable and enduring affection for “The Birds” but this darkly funny tale (at least, I think its humorous) got me going. The punch line is so so true.

Help Wanted by KM Zafari

I am obviously a failed punster never having made the leap to Civil Serpent. This bit of witty commentary drew me right in, the balance of the job descriptions kept me going.

What’s in a Word by Stella Turner

I am a sucker for talking birds. There were a few entries that used this technique. The humane measures humour (or not) in this one struck a perverse chord in me. Worthy of a last-minute but no less valuable honourable mention.

3rd Place

Burtons Suit Blues by Ed Broom

Right out of the chute (or shoot) a great pun, very creative use of the bookend. And the tone of the end bookend…marvellous. This tale also pays homage to the Jazz Micro Bookends contest a short while back which I thoroughly enjoyed. A sad yet hopeful mood piece, I grant it 3rd place.

2nd Place

The Implacable Nature of Being by A V Laidlaw

As a former front line civil servant, I couldn’t help but be drawn in to this sojourn into a bureaucratic maze. With the smooth use of the bookends and the agony of seeking a correction, I signed off on 2nd place.

Winner

Blackbird by Karl A Russell

This sad and beautiful story ripped my sometimes cynical heart out. There is a snippet of humour, a quiet bowl of sorrow, some learning (I was once a marriage commissioner – one specific role filled by a humanist ceremonial officiant, I discovered.) Quite a complete and oh so loving story. My 1st choice.

Blackbird

Karl A Russell

“Civil partnership, is that it?”

“What? No Mum, that’s something else.”

“Oh. Well, what’s that other one then? Humourist or whatever?”

I can’t talk to her, so I look out of the window instead. The smokers in the shelter look like bedraggled birds, waiting to spread dressing-gown wings and soar toward the sun. I wish I hadn’t quit.

“We were partners though.”

I look back, feeling my throat tighten.

“I know Mum. I know.”

She looks like a little bird herself, perched at the bedside. She’s still holding his hand.

“It’s called a humanist ceremony. Yeah, I think he’d like that.”

She smiles through tears.

“Humanist. Yes, that’s right.”

Oct 082015
 

Civil rights are the rights of an individual to personal liberty, free from interference from government, organizations or other individuals. Civil rights include protecting the individual’s physical and mental well-being, protection from discrimination on grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability and include rights such as privacy, the freedom of thought, speech, expression and movement. While in theory civil rights guarantee equal protection under the law, in reality many groups feel their rights are not as protected as other groups. This can lead to opposition, legal action and social unrest.

Reverend Jesse Jackson, Baptist minister, politician and civil rights leader, celebrates his seventy-forth birthday today. Jackson was born in Greenville, South Carolina, U.S.A. to a 16-year-old high school student and her 33-year-old married neighbour. When he was one year old his mother married a postal worker who later adopted the boy. Jackson maintained relationships with both men and saw them both as his fathers. He was teased at school for his out-of-wedlock birth, which he has said gave him drive to succeed. On leaving high school, Jackson received an offer to play professional baseball but turned it down to play football at the University of Illinois. He achieved a B.S. in sociology but dropped out three months before obtaining his masters to focus on the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King was said to be so impressed by the young Jackson that he put him in charge of the Chicago branch of Operation Breadbasket,  an organization dedicated to improving the economic conditions of black communities.

Let’s wish Reverend Jackson a very happy birthday with this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: via David Spinks CC.

Photo Credit: David Spinks via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Bill Engleson, winner of MB1.50. Read his winning story and what he has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with CIVIL and ending with RIGHT(S) 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 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, including hyphens and apostrophes, is allowed) will be eligible to win.

Oct 062015
 

Bill EnglesonOur most recent winner is Bill Engleson. Follow him on Twitter, take a look at his website, and go read his novel, Like a Child to Home.

Bill has kindly agreed to judge this week’s contest so pay attention as he tells us a little about himself and his writing:

I am a retired Social Worker, I live on a small Island, write, volunteer on local health organization Boards as well as at our local volunteer library, The Dora Drinkwater. Did I say write?

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? I treat Micro Bookends as a poetic challenge, mixed with the concept of a crossword puzzle. This story began with the idea of perfection and how often it fails. My other submission more captured the photo prompt.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? I think it is all about framing a mood, distilling the essence.

Why do you like flash fiction? There is an immediacy in flash fiction. I write 4-6 pieces a week now. Each site I visit is different from the others. The challenges, while similar, are sufficiently different to appeal to slightly varied story forms.

Been writing long? Dabbled always. Since retirement 13 years ago or so, regularly.

You write anything else? Poetry, letters to the editor. A monthly column in our Island journal, The Flagstone. The column is called In 200 Words or Less.

Any advice for other flash writers? There are so many great writers writing. I’d be better advised to take advice from them.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? I have two draft books of essays (life and politics in my rural heaven) that I am slowly editing/assembling. And a prequel to my first Social Work noir novel. On two of the sites I visit, Thursday Threads and Flash Mob Writes, I have two “serial” mysteries evolving.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? Cry, the Beloved Country.