Micro Bookends 1.43 – Results

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Aug 162015
 
Photo Credit: coia.nac via CC.

Photo Credit: coia.nac via CC.

Hope you’re all having a great weekend. Ready for the results? First a big thank you to judge, juror and executioner, Karl A. Russell. Thanks Karl! Here’s what he thought:

Wow! 39 entries! What a bumper crop of awesome tales! I read them all on the trip into London yesterday, and despite engineering works, rail replacement buses and unseasonably warm weather for the UK, they made the journey fly by. With a pair of bookends like Plot – Twist, it was a given that there would be murders aplenty, cunning plans and last-sentence flips, but there were also meta tales of the writing life, Scrabble battles and one or two wonderfully quieter moments. As ever, the variety of styles and stories on display are a testament to the wealth of talent I’m lucky enough to know.

But there have to be winners, so here goes:

Honourable Mentions

Make The Kill by Brian S Creek

This drew me straight in with the short, sharp sentences and incorporates an actual twist – setting up the protagonist as the assassin before skilfully revealing their actual objective – and makes seamless use of the bookends.

A Home Is A Safe Place by A V Laidlaw

Another great twist here, albeit far more subtle. While the protagonist’s friends are saddled with abusive drunks for fathers, the man here seems completely oblivious to the damage he has wrought. The horror is muted and implied by the protagonist’s obvious fear, and that last line is dynamite.

Chris And Mike Vs The Strangler In Paradise by Geoff Holme

It’s worth pointing out that I’ve judged these blind, and won’t even look at the authors until I’ve sent in my results, so at this point I really don’t know if this is by Brian or by one of the many Chris & Mike fans he’s building up with his unhinged tales of supernatural hokum. Either way, the genderswap is a wonderful conceit, playing on our familiarity with the characters to surprise us while still working as an actual Chris & Mike tale, all of which earns it an HM.

3rd Place

Loving More Not Less by @dazmb

A series of beautiful images elevate this to the truly poetic. It is one of the quietest tales this week, and I almost dismissed it on first reading, but those soft psalms and spiralling leaves remained with me, and with every reading the impact grew greater.

2nd Place

Family Obligations by Emily Livingstone

Another quiet piece, but with a sense of unease and isolation which builds extremely well in such a short space. The nervous tic makes for great use of the closing bookend, suggesting an ellipsis rather than a full stop, a brief, thoughtful pause before the story continues. With Aunt Vera being such a sensible (and rather crotchety sounding) character, I’d love to see where else this goes.

Winner

In Memoriam by Rebekah Postupak

Probably the funniest piece this week. I wavered between loving and hating the protagonist as they added their snide remarks to the list of funerary expenses. The writer made clever use of the format, contrasting the matter of fact shopping list with the pretty scandalous private thoughts to create a recognizable and believable character in very few words. Extremely well done and great use of the bookends (although the cheeky little note about the photo almost cost you a few points…).

In Memoriam

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.

Micro Bookends 1.42 – Results

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Aug 092015
 
Photo Credit: Paul Townsend via CC.

Photo Credit: Paul Townsend via CC.

Now it’s time for our headline act. Please welcome on stage, Geoff Holme and the Micro Bookends 1.42 results:

It’s been quite a while since I’ve acted in the privileged position of Micro Bookend judge – way back as far as MB 1.12, thanks for asking… Nowadays, there are new writers joining in the fun all the time. The sheer number of entries this week posed a challenge, even before we consider the across-the-board high quality of the work submitted. As ever, the selections for plaudits is entirely subjective; regular contributors are aware of this. But if you are a newcomer and your work does not get a mention below, please don’t feel discouraged. Try again and – who knows? – your entry may chime with next week’s judge.

Honourable Mentions

Carry On Festivalling! by A.J. Walker

Best recreation of the ‘Ooh, er, Missus!” staple elements of the ‘Carry On’ franchise – mild sexism, smut and double-entendres. (Shame about the missing opening bookend – or did you think that the story began with the title?)

Post-Morpheme by Rebekah Postupak

Loved the pun in the title that sets up the structure of this piece. I had to chuckle when I came across the ‘red pen’ as this was what I was using to conduct my analysis of the entries. Very clever stuff. If, however, the photo prompt was incorporated, it was so subtly done that your judge failed to spot it…

3rd Place

Survivors by Emily Livingstone

This story really captures the zeitgeist, with so many people displaced by war. ‘…like an eerie pointillist painting’’ is a beautiful phrase that evokes the multicoloured, close-packed tents. The female character’s limbo existence – not knowing whether her family is safe or not – and her inertia about seeking information, that may lead to elation or despair, together with the male character gently prompting her to break this inertia, is very well drawn. A simple but effective story.

2nd Place

My Positive Wilderness Experience by Nancy Chenier

Original and inventive use of the bookends to create an anodyne “Wilderness Experience” leaflet, interspersed with contrasting snippets from the chilling revenge story. I just hope that the MC has got the right target for reprisal. Great stuff!

Winner

The Weight by Karl A. Russell

I liked this entry a lot. It made very natural and seamless use of both bookends. The details of the story unfold at a gentle pace – the use of ‘pink Metallica shirt’ and ‘pink Metallica purse’ show us what is going on, rather than telling us explicitly. ‘You want a clear conscience, the Krishnas do free lentil curry…’ – great line. (I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t how it’s supposed to work!) Very well done.

The Weight

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.”

Jul 122015
 
Photo Credit: Tekniska museet via CC.

Photo Credit: Tekniska museet via CC.

Welcome to the results show. First, a couple of announcements:

There will be no Micro Bookends this week (boo) because I’m going on holiday (hurrah). The next contest will be on Thursday 23rd of July.

At 5am BST Tomorrow (Monday 13th July), voting will open for the best stories of this quarter. You’ll be voting for your top three stories from MB1.27 to MB1.39. The authors of the top three stories will each receive a copy of Doing Creative Writing by Steve May (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 at the end of year one.

Now, back to business. A huge thanks  goes to this week’s judge, Iskandar Haggarty. Here’s what he thought of it all:

I’ve got to say it; you all have not only the talent, but the bravery as well! One look at this week’s photo prompt had me stumped, and yet I read the various and diverse ways in which it was incorporated. Hats off to you all; I’m severely impressed. Choosing a winner was incredibly difficult. But it had to be done, so without further ado, here are this week’s standings!

Honourable Mentions

Drive by Emily Livingstone

I loved the creepy undertone of this one; the excitement of the girls and what they hoped to encounter made it realistic and relatable (and who doesn’t love a character named Laurel?) while the hostile ending leaves you on the edge of your seat; what happened? I want to know more! A quality story.

Hairpins and Hurricanes by maielizabeth

Okay, so I might have a weakness for the strange/outlandish, but this one caught my eye immediately; the description of the girls who controlled the earth was interesting and borderline whimsical (which is wonderful!) and a very fresh approach to the photo prompt. The description of Dolly as being the oldest by “a billion years” is so simple and outlandish that I actually believe it; interesting, quirky, and a formidable piece all in all.

Spontaneity by Numbers by Geoff Le Pard

This piece reminded me of the late-great Ray Bradbury because of its futuristic approach to problem solving. The piece managed to stay fictitious while sounding close enough to reality for it to sound like a plausible future. All I can say is that after reading this, I think I want a Hu-maid!

Seventh Hope by Holly Geely

This story had me hooked from the first line; its matter-of-factness pulls you in, and the writer uses this to expand on their sci-fi world in a manner that loses no momentum whatsoever. The excitement at finding a new and livable home is palpable, which makes the last line all the more devastating (and in its own sense, even a little tragically funny). I don’t think I can praise this piece enough.

3rd Place

The Switch by Marie McKay

This piece included it all; a creepy and gripping plotline, beautiful descriptions (‘scarlet words’ and ‘rooms that had sunnier aspects once’ made me gasp in awe) and an all-round sense of completeness. What the narrator has to go through on a day-to-day basis is traumatizing, and one can’t help but feel horrified while realizing what is going on. The writing in itself is the type that takes a hold of you and doesn’t let go. An absolute pleasure to read.

2nd Place

Newtonian Mechanics For Beginners by A V Laidlaw

Description. The description in this piece is so masterfully crafted that I could see absolutely everything while reading; I felt as if I myself were a satellite! The use of both short and long sentences gives the piece a variety that keeps each and every line interesting. The last sentence almost made my heart stop; it is so simple, so chilling; so strong. This wasn’t writing, it was painting. It was art. I am in awe of the author. Incredible job.

Winner

In the Control Room by Donald Uitvlugt

This piece is a winner and rightly so; it took me on an emotional rollercoaster. Its concise, dialogue-intense beginning felt top-secret and mysterious, which then melts into slight confusion at the mention of a hazy picture, which packs an immense punch with the final two sentences of the story. The bookends were used seamlessly; it feels as if it wasn’t even written for this week’s competition! An excellent story worth its weight in gold.

In the Control Room

Donald Uitvlugt

“Six Five Seven through Seven One Nine — no response.”

“Reroute through the Eight Hundred block, but keep trying those pathways.”

“Received. Wilco.”

The center worked furiously, busy hands moving wire after wire. But no matter how fast the girls worked, the systems collapsed faster.

The supervisor turned toward the monitor. A hazy picture showed the face of a woman. She should know who the woman was, but…

“Not getting through on the Eight Hundred block, mum.”

“Keep trying. The answer is there. Somewhere.”

***

Barbara kissed her mother’s cheek. She would not cry. Damn Alzheimer’s. Damn that death by degrees.

Micro Bookends 1.27 – Results

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Apr 192015
 
Photo Credit: Mark Hillary via CC.

Photo Credit: Mark Hillary via CC.

I hope you’re all enjoying Sunday. Here are the MB1.27 results. Thanks to this week’s judge, Marie McKay. Here’s what she thought:

First of all, thank you for allowing me to read your wonderful work. It has been a pleasure reading so many different interpretations of the prompts. From a personal point of view, had I been taking part this week, I think I would have found the bookends easier to work with than the concrete blocks. However, you turned those blocks into mazes, laboratories, film sets, torture chambers and even a cafeteria. Your stories were varied, and I enjoyed reading each one of them. Needless to say, I found selecting the top stories very difficult as the quality of your writing was so high. However, in the end, these were my thoughts.

Honourable Mentions

The Price of Silence by Iskandar

The closing line of this one made it stand out for me. It gives us an insight into the killer’s character and ego. An understated story with a dark, wry last line.

Being Creative by Stella Turner

The domestic setting is not immediately apparent. The main character seems to be hiding from an adversary. But in a pleasing turn of events, equipment and chaos he refers to in the story become the toys and contraptions that accompany babies- the proud father is in need of sleep.

Left to Go Cold by A.J. Walker

The bookends were used exceptionally well in this piece. The life of a man is depicted in one incredible sentence, and the final image is sad and beautiful.

3rd Place

Don’t Speak When You’re Spoken To by Geoff Le Pard

The clever title and line, ‘An odd compliment for a child’ made this an interesting piece from the outset. Jaroslav is the leader of an underground group. His boastful nature becomes quickly apparent. He takes credit for the child’s ability to keep the group’s secrets. His cruelty towards the boy is disguised in the idea he has ‘Trained…’ him. That training it would seem has been extreme. The group, once made aware of the boy’s treatment, understand why, in the end, the boy murders Jaroslav. The use of ‘could’ in the line, ‘why he could keep silent.’ has very sinister connotations. This was a very well constructed story.

2nd Place

Trial and Error by Emily Livingstone

The concrete maze inspired a number of stories about laboratories of one kind or another; however, I liked this interpretation very much as it was both dark and humorous. Ms. Wainwright’s lack of attention to detail and perhaps even her arrogance, is underpinned when she calls the intern ‘Sonia’ rather than ‘Sofia.’ The disastrous results of Ms. Wainwright’s approach to the experiment she is conducting become apparent when ‘the [giant] rats [are] halfway across the field, their tails sliding heavily through the grass behind them.’ The lab rats, it would seem, will be allowed their revenge. A beautifully paced, witty piece.

WINNER

Just Maybe… by NJ Crosskey

I thought this was an excellent piece of micro fiction. It builds to a very disturbing idea: ‘Maybe I’ll smash your skull in with a freakin’ shovel… I’ll bury you on the hillside with the other cows.’ Yet, the pain and frustration in this internal monologue becomes clear in wonderful lines like, ‘…I Don’t and I’m Not because of YOU.’ The repetition of ‘maybe’ ensures that we are aware that the ugly words and violent threats do not take place outside of this character’s own head. They seem his way of releasing the tension and unhappiness of being in a relationship where he feels controlled and undervalued. With the author’s seamless use of the final bookend, the main character resigns himself to keeping silent- even though constructive dialogue might be a better solution- and merely turns the volume up on the film. A clever story that I thought worked exceptionally well.

Just Maybe…

NJ Crosskey

Silent treatment, that’s what she accuses me of. Then it’s all: You Never, You Don’t, You Aren’t.

Well maybe I don’t and maybe I’m not. But maybe Glynis, just freakin’ maybe, YOU don’t and YOU aren’t either.

And maybe, just maybe, you sound like a flock of constipated pigeons. Maybe you’re a shrill, controlling harpy who kicks me when I’m down, so MAYBE, just maybe, I Don’t and I’m Not because of YOU.

Maybe I’ll smash your skull in with a freakin’ shovel. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll bury you on the hillside with the other cows…

…Or maybe I’ll just turn the sound up so I can hear the film.

Micro Bookends 1.23 – Results

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Mar 222015
 
Photo Credit: Wendy via CC.

Photo Credit: Wendy via CC.

Welcome to the results show. You all did remarkably well with the difficult bookends and photo prompt this week. Such a photo obviously led to wide range of interpretations and I enjoyed every single one of them.

A huge thank you to judge, Jessica Franken. Here’s what she had to say about this week’s contest:

Thanks to David for another creative contest. I think I would have found the prompts this week quite challenging, so I was a little bit glad to be judging rather than writing…

It was so fun to see what everyone came up with. Thank you to every one of you beautiful, twisted, joyous, talented, adventurous writers for sharing your work. I spent a lot of time with each story and it was my pleasure to live in your shining worlds. It was not easy to select the winners. I know judges always say this, but it’s true. Great work, everyone, and keep writing!

Honourable Mentions

The Gifts of Belief by Emily Livingstone

I liked the dialogue in this story: the new-agey mystical vagueness of the doctor, Ella hesitant but hopeful. We feel for Ella, who just wants to get better. But we also see things from the doctor’s perspective—people make themselves so easy to con! I couldn’t decide whether I wanted Doctor Which to get his comeuppance eventually, but I knew I wanted to see him in action for a while longer first.

Professor Doctor History by Holly Geely

OK, a character with the first name “Doctor” is just really funny. “Professor Doctor” made me giggle. But this story is more than that joke. The concept of a history professor being made to rewrite human history, reprogramming humans so they wouldn’t even know history had been rewritten, is spooky. And this piece gets bonus points for creatively incorporating the photo prompt. I could really picture evil robot ACE-17 walking around with an iPod stuck to his magnetic body.

Homeostasis by Meg Kovalik

Objects are not just objects—they are reminders of all we’ve experienced, and can be really hard to let go. As the title of this story alludes to, these ojbects, especially when accumulated, can keep us from moving forward. Maria begins this story feeling embarrassed and in the wrong for hoarding sentimental items (she “stammered apologetically,” her “lip quivered in shame”), but by the end what she feels is “self-acceptance.” I liked the progression she went through, and that she is choosing stasis even when those around her are trying to move her.

3rd Place

Petty Theft Jacki Donnellan

Being a teenager, as I imagine the narrator to be here, is an experience so heightened and traumatic I’m surprised any of us get through it. The only thing possibly scarier is being the parent of a teenager. I feel for them both in this story, the kid who needs attention and the dad who wants to show his son that crimes have consequences. I like the rhythm of the first line and the imagery of the second. I hope things turn out well for these two characters.

2nd Place

Untitled by Casey Rose Frank

This piece has great rhythm, and uses line breaks and punctuation well to create atmosphere for the driving single-mindedness of the task at hand (changing a memory). This back-and-forth could be within the narrator’s mind or could be a second party pressuring the protagonist to forget what he or she saw. Either way, it’s a chilling meditation on guilt and the way we fixate on the moment that could have changed everything.

Winner

ctrl + alt + delete by Foy S. Iver

I liked that this piece used the “doctor” prompt in a creative way, and incorporated the photo prompt as well. But I especially liked the vivid and visceral language. It was easy to feel myself within the story, especially with phrases such as “I drive my fingertips into the keys” and “The badge burns a circle in my breast pocket.” As readers, we don’t know what catastrophe left Earth in “sooty remnants,” but we can see even in these few words that people haven’t changed: there are still “company people” calling the shots and rewriting history through propaganda, and workers with little choice but to follow. Small details carry heavy weight in this story. It says a lot about a person if he’s getting manicures when others are living in “stick-and-blanket shelters,” and it says a lot about our narrator that he is willing to defy orders to keep the badge. We get the sense that we are witnessing the first small rebellion in what will hopefully grow into a larger resistance to the company—that the badge will continue to burn and give the narrator the courage to fight back.

ctrl + alt + delete

Foy S. Iver

“Doctor that image, will ya?”

His poke sends pixels scattering. The muscles in my arm tense. I drive my fingertips into the keys to keep from smacking his flawless hand away.

Damn company people and their manicures.

Clawing through the sooty remnants of Earth left mine ashen from a million memories, bodies, souls.
I wipe the stick-and-blanket shelter from the image along with another piece of my autonomy.

“We can’t have Earth looking hospitable. Theo said you found trinkets.”

I nod.

“A knife, an iPod, a picture. Anything else?”

The badge burns a circle in my breast pocket.

It is humanity. A testimony. There are survivors.

“No.”

Micro Bookends 1.19 – Results

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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 052015
 

Hello, good evening and welcome to Micro Bookends 1.17. I hope you all like a good political scandal.

On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested inside the Watergate building in Washington, D.C, the office of the Democratic National Committee. The men were connected to President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign, and had been caught planting wire-taps and stealing secret documents. Nixon’s knowledge of the incident was in doubt, but he certainly tried to cover it up by paying off the burglars, trying to stop the FBI from investigating, and destroying evidence. Nixon resigned from office, was pardoned of any crimes by President Gerald Ford, and continued to proclaim his innocence until his death. In 1977, Nixon was interviewed by British journalist David Frost, whose surprisingly thorough preparation and interview technique laid the whole scandal bare for the American public, and elicited an apology from Nixon.

The interviews were dramatised in the 2006 play, Frost/Nixon, which was itself adapted into a film of the same name in 2008. Frost was played by Welsh actor Michael Sheen (who celebrates his 46th birthday today) in both productions. Sheen has had a very successful career on both stage and screen, being nominated for four Olivier Awards for his work on stage, and a BAFTA for his portrayal of British Prime Minister Tony Blair in The Queen. Sheen being a Welshman, and today being the eve of the opening game of this year’s Six Nations Rugby Championship (when England are probably going to be taught a harsh lesson by Wales), let’s celebrate Wales’s proud coal-mining heritage with this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: [Duncan] via CC.

Photo Credit: [Duncan] via CC.

The Judge

This week’s judge is Emily Livingstone, winner of MB1.16. 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 WATER and ending with GATE 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.