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 1.43 – 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.”

Aug 062015
 

Welcome to Micro Bookends 1.42. Some quintessentially British prompts this week: bawdy comedy and rain. Remember to keep calm and…

The Carry On franchise is a series of thirty-one British comedy movies made between 1958 and 1992. All the movies were filmed at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire with location shots filmed within a few miles of the studio. By the late 1960s, at the height of the franchise’s popularity, location shots were filmed in such exotic locations as the Snowdonia National Park (the foot of Mount Snowdon acted as the Khyber Pass in Carry On Up The Khyber), and Camber Sands on the Sussex coast (acting as the Sahara desert in Carry On Follow That Camel.) The movies followed a predictable pattern of farce, double entendres, slapstick, parody and mild nudity, and featured a recurring cast, including Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Joan SimsHattie Jacques and Barbara Windsor.

Barbara Windsor MBE, who celebrates her 78th birthday today, is responsible for perhaps the most memorable scene from the Carry On movies, in Carry On Camping. Windsor is also well-known for playing the no-nonsense pub landlady, Peggy Mitchell, in the long running British soap opera, EastEnders. In her early life, Windsor was associated with the East End London crime scene. She had a brief relationship with Reggie Kray (half of the infamous Kray twins) and Ronnie Knight, an associate of the Krays, was the first of her three husbands.

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

Photo Credit: Paul Townsend via CC.

Photo Credit: Paul Townsend via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Geoff Holme, winner of MB1.03, MB1.11 and MB1.41. Read his winning stories and what he has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with CARRY and ending with ON and incorporating the photo prompt.

Who?

Anyone, but especially you!

Why?

Why not! Because it’s fun. Because it’s a challenge. Because the winner will receive their own winner’s page, their story on the winning stories list, a ‘Who is the author?’ feature to be posted next week, entry into the ‘Micro Bookend of the Year’ competition, and a copy of this year’s winning stories compilation.

When?

Now! Get your entry in BEFORE 5:00 am Friday (UK time: http://time.is/London).

Where?

Here!

How?

Post your story in the comments section. Include the word count and your Twitter username (if you’re Twitterized). Don’t forget to read the full rules before submitting your story.

Anything else?

Please give your story a title. It will not be included in the word count.

Please try to leave comments on a couple of other stories. It’s all part of the fun, and everyone likes feedback!

Remember, only stories that use the bookends exactly as supplied (punctuation, including hyphens and apostrophes, is allowed) will be eligible to win.

Aug 022015
 
Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan via CC.

Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan via CC.

Welcome to the results show. There’s a treat for you this week. Judge, KM Zafari, has given feedback on ALL stories. How great is that? Thanks, KM. Here, have an Above and Beyond the Call of Duty award. Here’s what she thought:

Judging this week’s entries was unbelievably difficult. There were so many good ones! And I don’t mean that in an “you all deserve a ribbon because everyone’s a winner!” kind of way. I mean you all honestly blew me away with what you wrote. What a roller coaster ride of emotions!

It’s important to note that I, as one person, tend to gravitate towards particular types of stories. I did my best to put that tendency aside and judge everything objectively, but I’m only human.

In the end, I went with my instincts and narrowed the field down to those that had that extra “wow” factor for me.

If you didn’t make the official list, please don’t feel bad. Really, I wanted to throw around HMs like glitter because there were so many worthy stories. There really, truly were.

And if you won, you should be extra proud of yourself because the competition was fierce!

Whenever I enter this contest, I do my best to comment on each and every entry. I decided to do so again here because I really feel like you all deserved it.

Caring by Carlos Orozco

I’d like to know more about these two. Who they are, what their relationship is. Why does she want to get away? To get high? Or because she feels guilt? The ambiguity makes this intriguing. Nice visuals.

Butterfingers by Jack

If only more mothers were like this. lol I love her playfulness and that she doesn’t take things too seriously. I wonder where her child gets their seriousness from.

Hell’s heaven by Firdaus Parvez

Oh, wow. Nice incorporation of the bookends. Feels very natural. Sad and disturbing. “My tattoo covered arms camouflage my juvenile delinquencies.” Makes me think this person is still young. How sad.

INTEL by Steven Stucko

It never would have occurred to me to think of things from a cop’s point of view. Clear portrayal of his/her feelings without feeling like we’re being “told”.

Picture this… by Firdaus Parvez

Sad juxtaposition of the children playing and their mom’s actions. How awful for them. I just saw a commercial for Intervention where a boy is banging on the car door for his mom to open up, and she’s like “Just a minute” as she’s shooting up heroin. So this story is a reality for someone, somewhere. I just hope these kids can maintain their childlike innocence for a bit. At the least the girl. I think it’s too late for the brother. 🙁

Thump-Thump by Craig Towsley

I love picturing the girl as the needle. Really interesting take on the photo prompt. She’s withdrawing vitality instead of injecting something, which is how most people read the needle. There’s something so intriguing about people like this, isn’t there? I’ve always envied them.

Frankly My Dear by legreene515

I like the incorporation of the catch phrase and that it’s a different take on things – i.e., insulin vs drugs. A nice moment in time with someone who doesn’t let their medical issues hold them back.

Connections by Marie McKay

Poor Jimmy. Drake seems like a mean brother. What’s worse is that he feels guilt because Jimmy obviously cares about him. And yet, he doesn’t really seem to return it. Maybe somewhere inside, he does. But I don’t think so – he does think of him as “hopeless” and “useless”, after all. I’m not sure Drake deserves him!

High School Rejects by Foy S. Iver

Subtle. You have to search for meaning to understand she has diabetes “too many Butter Fingers”. That’s really nice. I like that she wants to be cool. Tries to pretend she’s a druggie, when she has no idea what drugs really are. lol

Childhood by Pattyann McCarthy

I love the focus of this piece. Yes, there are horrors going on. Yes, there are dangers. Yes, the adult world will intrude. But innocence still exists. And it is lovely. I adore this.

Food by Stella Turner

“It had been so easy, pounds shed like leaves falling off trees.” Nice incorporation of the photo prompt. Like the situation.

Bald-No-More by Holly Geely

Ha! What a unique take on the prompt. I love the imagery of the doctor being reduced to a pile of hair. Humor is so often ignored in our little contests, which makes me sad.

(Re)purposeful by Steven O. Young Jr.

I had to read this one a few times (in a good way). Beautiful language. I’d like to know more about their situation and why they’re where they are. Could be a good candidate for exploring further.

Broken Skin by Pattyann McCarthy

This reminds of me of Dick Van Dyke’s notorious British accent from Mary Poppins. lol Without knowing who the author is, I can’t tell if it’s a Brit making fun of themselves or someone else making fun of the British. We have so many Brits in these contests that I assumed it was the former, but the quotation marks lead me to believe otherwise. I never in a million years would have thought of a drum and piercing the skin. I love it when people surprise me like that.

Dope by A.J. Walker

“I can see you’re full of poison, burgeoning thick and black through your veins like an algal bloom choking up a river.” What a gorgeous line. And ha! Superman picking on Arnold! Hilarious title.

The Evening News by Dylyce P. Clarke

Haha I think anyone who’s been in a bad relationship can find the humor in this piece.

Hope by Jacki Donnellan

I love the wordplay, here. “She sounds as fiery and golden as autumn.” vs “I sound as rusted and dry as autumn.” I think she is speaking to her reflection. Why does she see herself as more hopeful than she is inside? I’d love to read more.

Downward Spiral by Dylyce P. Clarke

Rhyming poetry (in English, especially, with our limited rhymes) is quite difficult. As such, I don’t always care for it when people try. (I realize that sounds snobbish.) But this is well done. It evokes emotion and tells a story, while doing very little poetic cheating.

When Words Are Not Enough by TanGental

This is beautifully written. The descriptive language is awesome.

Little Brother by Matt L.

“I’d go from little brother to living brother just like that.” Chilling. Ugh! I don’t understand why he hates his brother so much. This is very well written but leaves me sad.

Just Once by Iskandar Haggarty

“The needle kissed my veins.” Love this line. Good morality tale or words or warning. So many people die from just trying something once, don’t they? Frightening.

Honourable Mentions

Untitled by Nancy Chenier

Oh, how I wish this didn’t exceed the word count. What a lovely story. So much world and emotion. Fantastic writing here. Blast that one extra word. This one will really stay with me. Excellent.

CHRIS AND MIKE vs PNEUMONIA, WEREWOLVES, AND A FOREST FULL OF FAIRIES by Brian S Creek

Awesome use of the bookends into this story. “Damn,” said Chris. “He’s already taken the formula.” Such a clever way to incorporate the needle. There is so much story implied in such few words. Great world building.

Mind Over Matter by Marie McKay

What a depressing tale. In a way, I feel bad for Johnny. Trapped, alone with his thoughts. His life is essentially over, and now he has only time to think upon his mistakes. I love the staccato style of writing, which reads just like thoughts. Really well done.

Chasing the Dragon by MT Decker

Ooh, this is really cool. Great imagery. Reminds me of a spider bite that numbs its victim. Here, the victim of the dragon (or drug?) is taken in by the euphoria. I’d never heard the phrase “chasing the dragon’s tail” before. Like this one a lot.

[insert drumroll here]

3rd Place

The Chase by Rebekah Postupak

Whimsical and fun. I love this. Not only is it an unusual subject matter, it’s charming and sweet. The playful banter is really well done. And yet, there is a story here, too.

2nd Place

When Childhood Ends by Steph Ellis

Wow. I’m always caught by stories of innocence lost, which seems to be a running theme this week. I love how the children don’t see the needle as a threat but a plaything. This story highlights the real danger of these needles. “I’m Sleeping Beauty!” So sad and prophetic. And you can feel the mother’s heartbreak. I can’t imagine seeing my child holding up a needle like that.

Winner

A Winter’s Tale by Geoff Holme

Tragic, sad, and beautiful. This had all the hallmarks of what I look for in a great story – emotion and excellent writing. It’s beautifully crafted from beginning to end. The protagonist is lamenting the loss of his brother – not necessarily his physical life but the life shared with him. There’s a lot of genuine emotion in here, especially the crying/laughter that comes along with fond memories while you’re grieving. Lots to love here.

A Winter’s Tale

Geoff Holme

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

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

The syringe fell from his arm.

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

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

Micro Bookends 1.40 – Results

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Jul 262015
 
The lone protester

Photo Credit: Dan Phiffer via CC.

It’s results time again. Hurray! First a huge thanks to this week’s judge, Donald Jacob Uitvlugt, who has done a fantastic job of picking the winners from another amazing crop of stories. Thanks, Donald. Here’s what he thought of your stories for this week:

A very evocative combination of bookends and photo prompt this week. I counted a lot of stories about actors and other performers. The photo prompt seemed to be harder for people to get a handle on; some stories seemed to ignore it altogether. Going through all the entries, here are the ones that stuck out to me:

Honourable Mentions

Death By Haiku by Dylyce P. Clarke

While I would quibble with the definition of haiku here, there’s something audacious about telling a story in a series of short poems. I like the way the images flow from one poem to the next to tell the complete story as much by suggestion as by straightforward narrative.

The Landings by Marie McKay

I really like that this story takes things in a direction that none of the others do. We can feel the narrator’s desperation, even though we may not know exactly why he wants the invasion as much as he does. I only wish there was a slightly stronger tie-in to the photo prompt.

“Every Man’s A King” by Geoff Holme

The power of this story lies as much as in what isn’t said, in what we know are going to be the logical consequences of what the narrator does, as it does in the words used. The narrator is trying to take back what control of his life he can, and we can admire that, even if we don’t admire what he does.

3rd Place

Easy Street Atonement by Foy S. Iver

Even though I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, there’s something very powerful suggested here. Are we in a world where public atonement has become common again? Or is there something inside the narrator compelling him to this unusual act? Again, the story is as much in the hints as it is in the words on our screens.

2nd Place

The Walk On by A.J. Walker

I find this story to have the most inventive use of the photo prompt. A poignant tale of real life invading the artificial world of so-called high culture, and totally upstaging it. I think we all need to apologize for not knowing his name.

Winner

Stages of Love by KM Zafari

A hauntingly beautiful story with a less than obvious use of the bookends and an excellent use of the photo prompt. We have a life’s worth of passion and heartache between the bookends. Very well done.

Stages of Love

KM Zafari

Stage 1

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

Stage 2

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

Stage 3

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

Stage 4

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

Beloved Wife. The tombstone bears your new name.

Jun 212015
 
Before we get down to business, a quick reminder that the second Flashdogs anthology was officially published today. There are two books: Solstice : Dark and Solstice : Light. All proceeds go to the fantastic charity, The Book Bus. Click the images below to go to your local Amazon store where you can get your hands on these beautiful books.
[table id=10 /]

Endless

Photo Credit: Hernán Piñera via CC.

Thanks to everyone who contributed this week, and thanks to Geoff Le Pard for some excellent judging. The man’s a legend 😉 . Here’s what he thought of it all:

As a first time judge I had no idea what to expect but in 30 stories I confronted absorbing lifts, time-travelling Pope killers, Keith Urban the worst date night, the sad demise of the rural vampire and, of course Chris and Mike v…. Boy, do you guys have imaginations. Dystopia was a popular theme – no one seemed to link ‘URBAN’ with sunny uplands – as was the soul sucking nature of mirrors. Loved it, peeps, so muchas ta-everso.

David, being a natural tyrant insists this isn’t a primary school egg and spoon race where you all get a prize so…

Honourable Mentions

Dudetastic by Holly Geely

I suppose it’s because I can relate to the narrator’s confusion over language, in much the same way I was confused when confronted with Chaucer. ‘When did I stop understanding teenagers?’ When does anyone who isn’t a teenager understand them? The pain of the narrator is so clear. But please, tell me ‘Dudetastic’ isn’t the coming expression?

O Tempora! O Mores! by Geoff Holme

Where to start with this? The typo that means the wrong Pope is targeted. The innocence of appearing as a Christ-like figure that convinces the visited Pope to undertake the most compassionate mission tragically curtailed after 12 days because of the confused mission. I shouldn’t laugh, really, but…

Dates Dwindle by Iskandar Haggarty

A date gone wrong. I loved ‘Empty see-you-soons’. And the reference to ‘a little steam escaped her latte’ as she seethed at his comment. I was with that poor sucker, sure he was striking the right note only to realise too late it was just the death knell.

The Faymus Professys of Archibald Legend by A.J. Walker

Please read this, flash writers extraordinaire and tell me this doesn’t relate at some level to all of us. ‘Zombie apocalypse on steroids’ is a frightening concept but when linked to Flash dogs is truly mind altering. ‘Wolves with Thesaurus’ and saying Pratchett could have been one but for his use of footnotes to bypass the word count – perfect and laugh out loud funny (in context of course). My favourite line…

They chew their stories – Spitting out large morsels; keeping only the essential juicy bits’

That is the perfect mirror held up to us all.

3rd Place

Intervention by Pattyann McCarthy

Here is a live story told in 100 words. Elsie is a relic of the past, fighting her corner and for others amongst newly infiltrating gangs. She assumes she’s left alone because she is an anomaly but in fact it’s because she is the legend of the streets. Of all the stories this contained so much, allowing me to imagine a whole life spent and imagine the future too. Excellent.

2nd Place

Walk by Marie McKay

I took to this story immediately. Our unnamed narrator is a wage slave who has ‘a clock for a soul’. He is one of the pen-pushing ‘dead’. If you’ve commuted, you understand the precision of ‘ten mouthfuls of cornflakes, two coffees, one sugar’ and ‘spoonfuls of time measured out in crockery’.

Just when we’ve settled to this drudgery he spins the twist. Today is different. Today it’s ‘head and heels high’ our hero is ready ‘to walk the runway of catcalls and traffic cones’. Great stuff.

Winner

Miss Otis Has No Regrets by Ed Broom

This has everything. A story with depth, backstory and the stimulus for the reader’s imagination to think about the future; beautiful imagery; and some excellent humour.

Beryl is retiring from the planning department – now ‘Urban Design’. Jim has retired too ‘He got golf clubs. She has Amazon vouchers’.

The dialogue sums up so many retirements: ‘Don’t forget us Beryl’ ‘I won’t!’ I already have.

She glances at the gridlock ‘Jim’s idea, the one-way system’.

But just when we assume Jim is her nemesis we have Beryl blushing at her memory of journeys on the permanently moving ‘paternoster’. ‘Those up-and-over journeys passed into legend.’

I really enjoyed this simple tale, so well told. Thank you; now I want to know what will happen to Beryl and Jim in retirement!

Miss Otis Has No Regrets

Ed Broom

“Urban Design” reads the self-adhesive sign on the closing door. Beryl wonders what became of that polished brass “Planning” plaque which greeted her for 35 years. Jim probably pocketed it when he retired. He got golf clubs. She has Amazon vouchers.

“Don’t forget us, Beryl!”

“I won’t!”

I already have, she thinks, glancing down at the 5pm gridlock. Jim’s idea, that one-way system.

As usual, one lift is dead. Such a shame they removed the paternoster. “On you hop, it doesn’t stop!” was Jim’s catchphrase. In the lift door, Beryl catches herself blushing. Those up-and-over journeys passed into legend.