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 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.”

Micro Bookends 1.50 – Results

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Oct 042015
 
Photo Credit: Nano Anderson via CC.

Photo Credit: Nano Anderson via CC.

Welcome to the results show. A wonderful collection of musical inspired tales this week. Here’re my winners:

Honourable Mentions

Man Talk by Stella Turner

A fun moment in a father son relationship. The son wants to discuss sophisticated topics like the Latin origin of the word ‘perfect’ (great use of the opening bookend by the way) and the pitch and tone of the guitarist. The father has his mind on the football. But they’re talking to each other and the most important thing.

My Final Guitar Lesson by A.J. Walker

I love the set-up here: a girl reads aloud from her boyfriends diary and is upset he’s amused that she hasn’t mastered the Bm7 chord. So she ‘Townsend’s the guitar’ into his skull. What a great line. Nice, natural use of the bookends.

Child’s Play by Geoff Holme

It was nice to reminded we can beat the Aussies at something. Very clever to use the guitar in the photo as a means to torment the Aussies with air-guitar on the cricket bat. Nice use of the closing bookend too.

3rd Place

Making Beautiful Music Together by Carolyn Ward

This one made me laugh. I like the details in the opening paragraph of the differences between the two friends: Erika ‘prim and powdered’ and ‘pamper[ed] and preen[ed] for Hairy Bob (great name) while Tabs prefers the extra hour in bed. Then we learn why; Erika is in a relationship with Hairy Bob. Great descriptions of the pair ‘clanging and rattling, fingers playing each other’ in the music cupboard. And the closing line is fantastic: ‘struggling amid the maracas in their musical prison, black as pitch.’

2nd Place

Washed Up by Steph Ellis

I really liked the language and descriptions in this piece; ‘acoustic crouch’, ‘defeat perfumes the air you breathe’, ‘your melodies drift into half-remembered mists’. This downward spiral of the musician ‘tainted by sordid stories’ is wonderfully told in poetic yet lean prose. You really feel for this person for whom music was their life, especially if the sordid stories (‘always denied’) weren’t true. But as we know ‘mud sticks’ so ‘Why sing when no one listens?’ The closing bookend is used wonderfully in the line, ‘once luminescent pearls fading to pitch’; a metaphor for the music and the artist.

Winner

Cortigiana di Lume by Bill Engleson

A sad story about the effect of time on a once beautiful and exotic lady. I loved everything about this piece, but the one line that stood out is the fantastic description of ‘a wrinkle that insists on flinging itself out from the left side of her face’ as a demisemihemidemisemiquaver. What a great image and, together with ‘strings pulled and plucked’, a subtle and clever use of the photo prompt. I love the final paragraph with its wonderful descriptions, that depicts the character as one who has enjoyed (endured?) the company of powerful men and has become a powerful, and still sought-after figure, even though her beauty is fading. A lot to like about this complex little piece. Well done.

Cortigiana di Lume

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.

Micro Bookends 1.49 – Results

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Sep 272015
 
Photo Credit: Jimmy Baikovicius via CC.

Photo Credit: Jimmy Baikovicius via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, please join me in thanking this week’s judge, Karl A. Russell, for sorting it all out. Here’s what he thought:

Hey, you hip and happening cats! I have cast my sweet peepers over your words and now I’m ready to lay some truth on you all.

Honourable Mentions

Blowing Smoke by Bill Engleson

Jazz is the soundtrack of choice for the film noir, the hard-bitten gumshoe its eternal anti-hero. Here we get an intriguing glimpse into a noir tale – how did he come by that scar? – before crashing headlong into a modern world of corner boys and dead ends.

Equinoxically Yours by F. E. Clark

A mixture of heady scents and evocative images, rhythmic and startling. Read this one aloud to truly appreciate it, preferably in a basement cafe while wearing a black turtleneck sweater.

Signed, Sealed, Awaiting Delivery by David Shakes

I’m a sucker for a good soul-selling tale, but too often in flash, the urge is to throw in a twist ending. Here we get a nice change, trading on the inevitable outcome of such a deal to make great use of the closing bookend, and the trick with the last / first word of most of the paragraphs was neat too.

3rd Place

Generation 1 by Brian S. Creek

I was never a fan of Transformers, but otherwise, I recognise everything in this piece – the need, the rationalisation, the attempts to bully yourself into growing up – and I’d bet good money that there’s an element of autobiography in here. I’d also bet that he went ahead and bought it anyway…

2nd Place

Scott Free by Bill Engleson

This came closest to the free-flowing improvisation of great jazz, with a slightly unusual format that catches the eye, made up of words to captivate the ear and a seemingly random association of discordant phrases and images that create something that’s part poem, part story and more than either combined.

Winner

Mother Knows Bert by Ed Broom

Miles Davis famously said that jazz is as much about the notes you aren’t playing. Fittingly, this week’s winner is all about the words that aren’t being written. The auto-corrected text is a delight, and a wonderfully original way to incorporate the bookends without having to actually use them in the story at all.

Mother Knows Bert

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.

Sep 202015
 
Photo Credit: Rojer via CC.

Photo Credit: Rojer via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, please join me in thanking this week’s judge, Steven O. Young Jr., for sorting right from wrong. Here’s what he thought:

I feel it may be necessary to admit that I haven’t acted as a judge since screening entrants in my elementary school’s talent show. It’s never easy to hold one’s work against another, but it was a fairly simple process back then; we were only kids, most of whom weren’t especially skilled yet. The field practically came together on its own—I can’t recall having to make any tough cuts.

This, however, was nowhere near as elementary.

There’s a tad bit more talent this time around, which took the prompts in incredibly varying directions. Your pieces ran the gamut from the psychedelic to the subdued; from using Shakespeare and Tolkien while establishing contemporary settings, to having Grateful Dead lyrics outline a couple’s relationship; from works of utter playfulness to stories of subtle despair. It made for some difficult decisions that required multiple readings of each piece to even be able to trim the list down whatsoever.

Still, decisions had to be made and they’re surely a matter of subjectivity. Well, that’s fairly obvious, but what I mean to say is that there were plenty of worthy stories that could have very easily gotten the nod with someone else reading. At any rate, thank you all for making my part in this process a struggle, and congratulations to our winners!

Honourable Mentions

Desperately Seeking by Marie McKay

The quiet façade of this story hardly hides its viciousness. “Desperately Seeking” is an incredibly apt title; its message is not guardedly veiled, from the immediate admission of a “soon-to-be single” seeking a “man who takes care of people” to the bold print spelling it out a bit more explicitly.

Destination by Marie McKay

The use of synesthesia determined a sort of bodily-detached reading for me. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it certainly fit the diagramming of constellations and the “long distance souls skirting the edge of places”—lives told in the forever unobtainable, where the characters were all too eager to cast their dreams in the “empty track.”

3rd Place

Almost Fooled by Jacki Donnellan

With the vivid descriptions, it seems dangerously easy to be fooled by the illusionistic majesty of the scenery that surrounds the speaker. However, the curt sentences set a distinct rhythm that embodies the speaker’s fatigue. Her punctuated narration dismisses the possibility of allowing herself to become too attached to any of the potential delights after having suffered once. That realization is made all the more tragic when the speaker expresses the rigidity of her sense of solitude after feeling her baby kick.

2nd Place

Schoolboy Error by Sonya

This piece has such an innocent and genuine feel to it. Sure, there may be some sense of mild malice at the heart of the events, but Benny seems like such a gentle and earnest character that the reader’s attention is wholly diverted to Benny. While that may be an incredulous statement seeing as Benny only says two words—though “Chrimbo” certainly adds definition to him—the narration of the last paragraph sealed it for me with the pranksters set as the foil to Benny’s kind-hearted naïveté.

Winner

Merry Andrew by Karl A Russell

I’m jealous of more than a few pieces provided this week—more than just those that made this list—but this reads so naturally I’m almost annoyed to know it was written in a day! The lilting cadence carries throughout, dictated by a consistent syllabic patterning and rhyme scheme that molds each stanza. The use of “fayre” hints at the poem being a folktale of considerable age, which only goes to amplify its mythos. Plus, it practically demanded that I read the poem with my poor rendition of a Middle English accent. This isn’t as bawdy as many poems of that age, but it’s delightful nonetheless.

Merry Andrew

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.

Sep 132015
 
Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, we must think this week’s judge, Brian S Creek, for sorting it all out. Here’s what he thought:

I’m a big fan of Formula 1. One of the things that’s interesting, especially this year, is how close some drivers can be on the qualifying, and still be lagging on the back row. Twenty drivers give it their best and end up being separated over just two seconds. It’s the milliseconds that decide the order that they line up on the grid for the race. And I’m talking thousandths of a second between 5th and 15th.

Which brings me to your wonderfully crafted stories.

When judging these contests, the results show you the top picks, and it can look like the remaining bunch were just left by the wayside. But, for me, that simply wasn’t the case. So many stories were hanging around the top bunch that there basically wasn’t a bottom bunch. My order changed and changed and changed; sometimes a story that I’d written off early on would suddenly jump up and challenge the podium.

Unfortunately I can’t pick 36 stories for 1st place. So below are my top 7.  For those of you not listed here, I know you’ll all be back again this Thursday to try again. See you there.

Honourable Mentions

This Thing, I Forget Its Name by A V Laidlaw

There were several mental health stories this week and this was one of my favourites. The piece stood out with some very beautiful lines early on (‘dandelion seeds blown away in the breeze’ to describe fragile memories, and ‘The sense that reality is nothing more than an early draft’).

Jacked In by FE Clark

It’s a playful piece, but darker underneath. With everything we do going digital, how long until we do too?

Teeth Like Colin’s by CR Smith

One of the stories that had me laughing out loud, I really like the use, mid story, of the two characters breathing in. And the brutal honesty of the dentist when letting our guy know that he’s a dentist, not a miracle worker.

Test Run by Colin Smith

So many stories went with words beginning with the opening bookend, that I liked this story for starting with a spelling mistake, an error that builds into the plot.

3rd place

Britopia by Marie McKay

I laughed at several stories this week, but this was the funniest. Perhaps because I’m British, trained from birth to understand the basic protocol for standing in line with a bunch of strangers. It might seem plot-lite, but the journey contained within this piece of Flash Fiction is as epic as the one taken by Frodo and Sam to Mount Doom. Our main character travels from point to point, overcoming obstacles, until he finally reaches his goal; a place in Britopia.

2nd Place

Thump by Iskandar Haggarty

A simple story, that of predator versus prey, and beautifully written. It’s feels like it’s taking too much time for a piece with a 100 word limit, but the ending is far from rushed. Despite the violence of the finale, I found the piece to be quite relaxing.

Winner

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

There were a couple of entries this week that went for the mental illness angle, but this one was the most subtle. I’ll be honest and say I struggled through my first reading (the thoughts within the speech confused me), but when I got to the end, it clicked.

And what an ending. I thought this was a simple story of an elderly man with fading memories and a vivid imagination, while the main character is forced to sit through tall tales. But that repetition of the opening line packs way more punch than if the author had simply wrapped the story up with a simple explanation of the older man’s ailments.

And the main character sits through it all again.

Da Capo All’Infinito

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.

Micro Bookends 1.46 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.46 – Results
Sep 062015
 
Photo Credit: Mike Fleming via CC.

Photo Credit: Mike Fleming via CC.

Welcome to the results show. It’s a corker today, with the same writer taking second and first place! But first, a huge thanks to this week’s judge, @dazmb. Here’s what he thought of it all:

Before we get started, take a moment and give yourselves a pat on the back. You are all sorcerers of your craft. This week’s stories gave me hours of reading pleasure before I had to knuckle down to the intimidating task of putting them in a semblance of order.

In the parlance of my young teenage son (and would be skater boi) your sick skilz transported me away from the skate park to courtrooms, outerspace, treasure hunts, A&E, classrooms, railway tracks, office parties, Mount Olympus and all the way to the delivery room.

A tour de force of entries and an education too…Xu, xenogamy, xenogenesis, xerophytic, xenolithic and xi…who knew?

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity and honour of extending the following thoughts on my favourite entries. It was an incredibly difficult task to order the final list of winners and I look forward to rejoining the fray and fun of sharing our stories together next week!

Honourable Mentions

Skater Boy by C R Smith

Out of all the entries this one made me smile the most, hence its inclusion in the final run-down.

I thought the angle taken on the ‘skate park’ setting was original and the phrase ‘fresh eyes and false memories’ inspired.

The contrast between the narrator’s amazement that he indeed was able to ‘carve frontside performing a 360’ versus his hapless accident made me snort out loud.

But what really sealed it for me was the last line.

‘Skater Boy’s back in the game!’

He thinks he’s got it, the reader knows he doesn’t and as a consequence a difference in perspective is established for ongoing comedy…I’d love to read about his further exploits.

I bet he’s a dad dancer extraordinaire!

Cnsl Fr Th Prsctn by Karl A Russell

So at first, my brain crawled out of my ear when I read this. But when I finally worked through the story I loved it.

The technique of removing the vowels has been done before I think, but its use here served a genuine purpose, suited the ‘graffiti’ photo prompt, and made for an altogether original entry.

It’s a light hearted story, but I felt it made an interesting point about how language evolves; something that should concern us all as writers.

Technology continues to radically alter our means and methods of communication. We live in an age, where generations communicate by emojis and emoticons and think nothing of incorporating twitter acronyms such as btw, wtf, b4 and fwiw into their everyday writing.

How do we respond to this? Like the magistrate, a member of the establishment, raging against the light, railing against the (brilliant) reduction of ‘T b r nt t b’? Or, indeed do we embrace the revolution of a world without vowels?

A piece that wore the questions it raised very lightly. Thought provoking and fun. A winning combination.

Porlock by A V Laidlaw

‘Xanadu in concrete…’ This was my favourite opening out of all the entries. A vivid contrast that grabbed my interest straight away and has stuck in my mind ever since.

I will also put my hand up and admit to a little subjective bias. I live in London and took a keen interest in what I assume this story relates to…the graffiti ridden skate park on the Southbank and ‘graffiti alley’ in Waterloo and the risk they face from gentrification and development.

But aside from the factual relevance what stood out for me in this story was how it reduced the mythical: ‘Xanadu’, ‘Sacred Thames’ to the mundane: the ‘dismal school days’ and ‘the stink of the gym’.

All at the hands of a jaded jobsworth who cannot see the wood for the trees, whose being is consumed with the petty idea of getting his own back, excellently portrayed in the phrase “he puckers a tiny smile”.

Mr Porlock hates games. I don’t think much of him either.

4th Place

X-Games by asgardana

A rite of passage story given a thoroughly modern makeover.

At the core of this story is a friendship between Carla and Kyle, both coming terms with the inevitable changes of adolescence.

There is an honesty and openness in their relationship that shines through the tricky subject matter.

Kyle’s curious to know more. Carla’s secure enough to start coming to terms with who she might be: strong enough to do so on her terms, rather than Kyle’s, but forgiving enough not to completely cut him out when he realises the mistake he’s made.

Carla’s a great character – I’d like to know more about her.

In today’s age, where x-rated material is so freely available to skew impressionable minds, it was reassuring to read a story that touches on this subject matter, but ultimately is about a boy and a girl getting to know each other as friends, rather than objects.

So while this piece of flash fiction stands by itself, it has the potential to withstand being fleshed out into something more substantial and longer. That’s why it made my top four.

3rd Place

Skater Girl by F. E. Clark

Oh, I did like this in your face character mea culpa. Setting out its uncompromising stall in a compelling first sentence the piece doesn’t stop until that dismissive last line.

It spoke to who we project ourselves to be versus how we see our ‘real’ interior selves and how we continue to reconcile the two as time passes.

So our skater girl is now a city girl? (“I hit the 180” is a great, double layered meaning of a flash fic sentence). Is she a sell out? Is she looking for your opinion goofyfoot? Judge away, she’s walking on by in her Jimmy Choo’s.

But then again, can she really be a skater girl, down to her core? Is she simply kidding herself?

Telling yourself a thing doesn’t necessarily make it so.

And then… there is the perspective of age and the question she has yet to ask herself or understand…how long does your past define you? Before it fades over the horizon and you forget who you really were all those long years ago?

But for now, she’ll keep it hidden, be as ‘cold as stone’. Tell herself ‘It’s all a game’ and not worry about any future reckoning.

Tough, sassy and full of the certainty of youth. All good stuff.

I love stories that get me thinking, that ask questions of myself, that raise more questions the more I think about them. This one certainly did. I have probably returned to this story and thought about it more than any other. That’s why it made my top three.

2nd Place

A World Divided by X by Brian S Creek

This is just an absolutely top notch, piece of writing.

I wasn’t sure whether the author had read my bio, with its passing reference to science, but as soon as I read the opening sentence, I hunkered down, certain that I was in for a treat.

And what a treat. 100 odd words and the author has established context, backstory, place, motive, the outline of a plot and developed the main character. Phew

“I eat when I can, sleep when I can. The rest of the time I hunt the bastards down” is an awesome bit of writing. It’s simple, short, punchy and at the end I really felt like I know this women, understand what makes her tick, who she is…

The bookends were seamless and the writing beguilingly effortless. Every word serves a purpose and as soon as I’d finished reading it, I read it right the way through again, muttering to myself ‘blimey, I wish I’d written this.’

It is a lean, mean, absolute masterclass in flashfic.

Forget about the MC being on top of her game.  There’s only one person on top of their game here, and that’s the author. Brilliant stuff.

Winner

When the Student Becomes the Master by Brian S Creek

X.

Y.

Z.

I have to be honest and say I wasn’t entirely sure where this was going to start with, but what unfolded was a quietly heartbreaking tale of a dyslexic father helping one son with his homework while playing with his other.

The photo prompt was incorporated in an original way, and I liked the way the author, title aside, kept the reader on their toes and the story unobvious until the teacher /pupil relationship was inverted in the middle of the passage.

The sentence ‘I struggled with it back in the day and it ain’t no easier now’ has a lovely forward momentum that segues into the MC’s building sense of resignation and failure that ‘Frank down the road doesn’t let it beat him down’ before finally boiling over into a sense of frustration that his child’s toy is mocking him.

And then, suddenly, the story ends, with a simple question:

‘Would you like to play a game?’

I found the juxtaposition between the simplicity of the question, the patience of one son and the unquestioning love of another, eager to play with his father, versus the father’s pent up emotions, certain that he is failing one child and will fail another, incredibly powerful and moving.

What will he do? Lash out or absorb his frustration, his anger? The question is left open, but the irony that the story allows the reader to see what a loving and capable father the MC is, even if he cannot fully appreciate it himself, only heightens the emotional impact of the ending.

It was incredibly difficult to choose between this and the second placed story. The latter won my head over, but this truly deft and skilful piece of writing won my heart. And in the end that’s what I went with – the poetry of the final question – it snagged my heart – and shone a light on the emotional core of a father’s relationship with his sons.

Congratulations to all you flashfic genies, and to this author in particular!

When the Student Becomes the Master

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?”