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”.

Micro Bookends 1.19 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.19 – Results
Feb 222015
 
Photo Credit: matthewwu88 via CC.

Photo Credit: matthewwu88 via CC.

Ready for the MB1.19 results? It’s another ABCD (Above and Beyond the Call of Duty) award for this weeks judge, Deborah B. Foy, who has written comments on all of your wonderful stories. Thanks! Take it away, Deb:

Before anything else, thank you, Dave, for hosting. I can’t imagine the consistency it would take to pull this off so well every week. Perhaps this says something about me…

Thanks also to each of you who submitted and who keep coming back, commenting, encouraging, and making us young writers feel comfortable sharing our passion.

Judging gives birth to anxiety. Not the crippling kind. The one that whispers self-doubt in your ear. There’s a fear of offending, disappointing, or simply picking “the wrong one” (as if there is a wrong one with this crowd). Brian S. Creek expressed it well on his blog a few weeks back. Anonymity is a fine security cloak but it can’t chase all the demons away. Please know your tales were kept with care.

Without further blahblahblah, and from beneath the cloak, here are your stories back.

Chao by Jack

Poor Chao. 🙁 Through his unfortunate accident, we sneak a glance at the awkward emotions of sympathy (or pity) one human can feel for another. Clearly there is far more tale lurking behind the observations of the MC and wanting to know what happened 12 years back is killing me.

CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE LESSER-SPOTTED DRAGON by Brian S Creek

Not only was this another thrilling installment in the adventures of Chris and Mike, the use of bookends was fantastic! They fit seamlessly and made me forget that they were even required, exactly what I’m looking for with MB stories. Well done!

Rebirth by David Shakes

Another story that incorporated “Spring” and “Festival” as naturally as if they weren’t borrowed. This tiny tale of romance lured in my soul only to chew it up and spit it back out at that penultimate line: “I’m sorry for what came next.” WHAT?! What came next? What happens to Dani?! Please, don’t leave it to my imagination! *The author of this piece must see me afterwards*

Too Close by Sydney Scrogham

This one was impressive if only because every line of dialog was formed in the interrogative yet it still felt real. Both Voices are clearly caught up in their own heads and if they only took a moment to listen to the other, maybe they wouldn’t have had such a close call…

Celebration by Susan O’Reilly

The title of this poem was so perfectly at odds with its message; the Voice rejecting life and its insistence on celebration as entropy sucks joy from his/her bones. As a privileged witness to that burden, you feel the weight of aging and leaving behind the things you once cared about that are still important, just not as consuming.

My favorite line? “Losing mobility along with my hair.”

Father and Son by stellakatet

Best hyperbole with “I had small feet; his were the largest ever to walk this earth.” Here, there’s an entire lineage of sons trying to fill their father’s mythically sized shoes. At the last, his only hope is to pray his mother doesn’t realize it isn’t him dancing beneath that mask.

Waking the Dragon Woman by F. E. Clark

How temperamental dragons are and especially when roused at the improper time. Even Spring cannot not come without their bidding, you know. Moral of the story? Let sleeping dragons lie.

Spring Cleaning by Susan O’Reilly

Being a *tiny* bit of a neat freak, I enjoy spring cleaning so while it was hard to relate to this woeful husband, I did feel sympathy for him…until I read the line “do it wrong on purpose day.” Really bro? Not cool.

Spring Festival by ladyleemanila

I loved this little poem for its contrasts. While the rest of the world is waking, unfolding, gathering energy, the third stanza hints that not all are as caught up in the rebirth. One soul at least is being exhorted to “Forget the past,” and “Be brave.” Ending on such a positive third stanza means that soul could relinquish what’s already slipped away (I hope).

direction by stu06bloc9

The amount of alliteration almost melded my mind but something about this Voice stuck with me. Not everyone is keen on direction and less so when coming from a “dragon of a man.” It spoke strongly to the types of leadership that will and absolutely won’t get results. I’d have walked straight out of there.

For Sale by Susan O’Reilly

The title of this piece is even funnier on second read through. Maybe it’s the early morning coffee buzz but now I’m picturing Randy as dejected and selling what he couldn’t woe with his “oozing oils.” Another writer that chose names well.

Fight of the Year by stomperdad

This one snuggled deep into to my child-heart. I felt like I was running right beside those two warriors, crouching in the dark, then….inspiration and fierce self-defense! Quite the adventure epic in less than 150 words. 🙂

Seasonal by Susan O’Reilly

Like mother, like daughter, no? A sweet  tale of “a good witch” and her helpless children. While all four names together in one family are certainly “cringe-worthy,” separately they’re adorable.

Transition by Marie McKay

I’ve got to say, I did not anticipate this ending. Poetic imagery like “suppleness returning to muscle,” “unfurling from endless night,” and “dewy flesh,” drew me in and the last line sealed it, “I am cannibal, and this is my festival.” Gorgeous!

Opportunity by mrmacrum

Creepy Chongun! A brother’s greed is well-hidden until the second paragraph. This tale gives new meaning to optimism and opportunity.

Finding Fen by Lauren Greene

An endearing quest to find the one that got away, I liked that Chao represented a self-sufficient spirit, exhorting his friend to make his own luck, while the MC leans on traditions of animal-years, certain that “Good things will come.”

Who Says Youth Is Wasted On The Young? by Geoff Holme

Another story that made me laugh! I loved the interjection “Mormon…no alcohol” and the allusion in the title that perhaps these aren’t spring chickens gone wild, but instead septuagenarians set loose.

Wicker Dreams by Michael Simko

Intriguing to say the least. These lines sprang from the screen “Summoning rage from my losses,” “anger from my shame of fleeing,” and “My hoe carves into the beast,” presented a visceral feast for the reader. Major props for the original twist at the end, human as centerpiece.

Penhold by Ed Broom

Penhold perfectly plays out the frustration that comes with achieving your goal after long hours of persistence, only to find the camera wasn’t rolling. And as they say “Pics or didn’t happen.” I weep for you, Danny Boy! Also cleverly subtle tie-in to “Year of the Goat” with Danny stroking his goatee. Confession: I had to look up penhold. Happy to have learned something!

Chinese Whispers by Geoff Holme

Ahhh the importance of listening… I learned a new name for Telephone with this story, so thank you! Wang’s enthusiasm for helping is adorable and only makes the “stetson, checkered shirt, bandana and cowboy boots” all the more funny!

A Breakable Promise by Steph Ellis

A quote from William Tecumseh Sherman echoed between my ears reading this, “I tell you, war is hell!” War for a good cause is painful; war for a pointless cause is torture. The last line carried so much: “a ceasefire is a breakable promise and…in times of war, man makes death a festival.”  Beautifully tragic.

Supplication by Nancy Chenier

I’m a sucker for poetic prose! Gorgeous lines throughout “spiky resin,” “labyrinthine ribcage,” “myriad mouths,” and “shrieks…blister” leapt out at me.  The conflict was all laid out in the title, a people bound by violence to worship a being they hate. Gorgeous prose.

Spring in Jerusalem by howdylauren

Those that know me well, are privy to the fact that I LOVE finding deeper meaning through character names. This story has that in spades! “Clemency,” “Kippur,” “Eli,” and “Lina” all display their purpose or personality through the names they bear. As if that isn’t enough, it goes on to play out the harsh reality of Spring in Jerusalem, while there is joy in forgiveness, sadly it’s through death alone.

Honourable Mentions

Culture Clash by Geoff Le Pard

Building a world, let alone a clashing world through dialog (almost exclusively) is difficult and this writer makes it feel easy. As if that wasn’t enough, so much of the lines made me bust out laughing, “No 76 will complain,” “They’ll want MSG,” “You sold his cannabis cookies,” and of course the side-splitting justification that it was “harvest Festival.” For all these reasons, Culture Clash demanded a nod.

Supreme Dragon by Holly Geely

Another story that incorporated the bookends flawlessly, Supreme Dragon, clinched its place in my heart with that final line, revealing that for a creature who is “beyond [our] mortal ways,” he’s quite human, “bummed” at the invitational oversight. The majesty and humanity of this piece at the least deserves an honorable mention.

The Awakening by Donald

The Awakening is a fine example of a story that’s good for what’s not said. Why someone would want to wake such a terrifying beast is left to the imagination and identifying the summoner (or who I presume it was) takes careful reading. Fantastic use of bookends as well.

3rd Place

Leave it Alone Mrs Lee by A.J. Walker

From the bright personifications of early-morning spring and bubbling kettle, to the surly happiness of the MC, this story instantly won a sliver of my heart! It earned an even larger slice after reading how Mr. Liverpool blared his Mercury and didn’t give a sheep’s head for the dragon next store. By the end of it, I wanted to sit and have a beer and pub food with this delightfully grumpy MC and find out what other bands he blasts mid-morning.

2nd Place

The Gaps by Brett Milam

Oh, Melancholy, my first love! From that first glum phrase “carcasses of winter” to the chilling description of those in The Gap as walking “without the maggot bite marks to indicate their decay,” I was hooked. Jonathan’s downward spiral is hauntingly depicted. The line where we are told that he’s doing the “things…you’re supposed to do (and not)” followed by mention of the psychiatrist with her persistent pen, opened up his story to a whole other meaning, adding another layer of tragedy.

Winner

The Risk of Living by Emily Livingstone

Outstanding! Meaningful, layered, with characters that breathe, this story became more wonderful with every read through. It reminded me of that C.S. Lewis quote, “To love [and to live] is to be vulnerable.” Leah knows this and chooses to keep living, carrying out traditions that have long been wiped out by an unwritten tragedy. Paul, meanwhile, is cautious. He can’t see the value in setting off fireworks  and dancing in honor of a time past. The risk of living is exposing yourself, being vulnerable. Well worth it. Masterful story.

The Risk of Living

Emily Livingstone

Spring came after months of huddling together with generators, fires, and blankets. They explored, invading the privacy of the dead, looking into houses and yards.

Leah believed they’d found treasure.

“But you know nothing about this.”

“Paul, it’s human tradition.”

They looked out the window at the empty streets. It had been two months since they’d seen another person.

“It’s risky, Leah. It could attract attention.”

“I miss people.” She donned the intricate lion head and danced toward Paul.

He removed it. “You don’t know what kind of people will come.”

Leah took a precious match and lit a stick of incense. “Tonight, fireworks. We need them—a festival.”

Feb 012015
 
Photo Credit: Matthew Fern via CC.

Photo Credit: Matthew Fern via CC.

I haven’t judged my own contest since MB1.07 on the 20th of November. I said then that I’d forgotten how difficult judging was, and I can only repeat that again today. There were nineteen fantastic stories then; this week there were thirty two.

You all did fantastically well with a tricky opening bookend. And that photo inspired some wonderfully dark tales. There was inevitably some similarities across your stories. I’m always on the lookout for an original take on the photo prompt and smooth use of the bookends. Now, on to the winners.

Honourable Mentions

Looking Good! by AJ Walker

I like to think that I’ve read enough of your stories by now, both here and around the place, to recognise your writing, but I must admit I was surprised when I saw this was written by AJ. Make of that what you will! The set up is perfect: the flat stomach, the approving looks from the ladies. Then the truth: cancer. After his “month of looking good” he relieves his own suffering in the woods with a gun. The final line is fantastic.

Royal Hush by Chris Milam

It starts with a fantastic title and gets better from there. “Weight for me” is a sneaky, yet original, use of the opening bookend, and completely believable from the woman described brilliantly as having “a face as delicate and edible as spun sugar and a body as luscious as a wedge of cheesecake”. The “melancholy casino” sounds like a grim place, but even there you can find humour.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you by Curtis Bausse

I imagine this is a scene played out in so many dark, fetid bedrooms around the world. Of course sometimes the fantasy spills over into reality leading to an all too familiar tragedy. The scene is drawn perfectly: “munch, swig, joystick.” Even though you know it’s all playing out on screen, you have to worry about what Billy’s future holds.

A Shot in the Dark by Lauren Akers

Ah, online dating. I love the flippant responses to the questions and the foreshadowing of the character’s love of hiking in the woods. Something happened last year to bring about the characters misfortune. We don’t know what but it doesn’t matter. Of course there are no matches, so the character takes one last hike in the woods.

3rd Place

Spree by Holly Geely

I love the situation here: a recently murdered person describes her killer to a mysterious agency who will do their best to stop the killer. “Should I care about that?” the character asks, “I’m dead.” But after the humour comes tragedy. It’s not a single killing but a spree, and the story ends on a chilling note.

2nd Place

Merriam, Webster, and I by Casey Rose Frank

Such an original concept. I love the contrast between the mechanical descriptions from the dictionary and the emotional reality the mother is experiencing. It builds perfectly with the final two lines really hitting the emotional sweet spot. Fantastic writing. A very close call between this and the winner.

Winner

Shifts by Emily Livingstone

Fantastic descriptions of someone held in limbo (“I floated above the world”) after the disappearance of a loved one. The shift is brilliantly described, from hope (“waiting for his return, for the phone to ring”), to acceptance (“I waited for them to find his body, his killer, his story”), to despair when the body is found (“the weight shifts, but still, it’s loss”). The aside with the cashier serves to show how the character is totally immersed in grief. Brilliant writing. Well done, Emily.

Shifts

Emily Livingstone

Weight comes in many forms. Mine is Griff.

When he disappeared two years ago, I floated above the world, waiting for his return, for the phone to ring, for him to reach across the mattress and hold me in my sleep. Over time, I sank closer to earth; I waited for them to find his body, his killer, his story.

Life went on.

Yesterday, a cashier said, “Where’s the smile, huh? It’s not so bad.”

Don’t get me wrong—I work, eat, go out. It’s just hard to lift the corners of my mouth.

Today, the police found his body, and a gun. The weight shifts, but still, it’s loss.