Jun 072015
 
Photo Credit: Todd via CC.

Photo Credit: Todd via CC.

Time for the results. Huge thanks go to this week’s judge, Jessica Franken. Thanks, Jessica! Here’s what she thought:

Once again, I was impressed by the range of creative stories submitted. Requiring “taker” as the final bookend is some advanced-level promptage but you all pulled through.

There was a lot of death this week, which is no surprise given the “undertaker” theme. I haven’t read this many murders in one sitting since Game of Thrones! (And there were enough serial women-killers in these stories to keep Dexter quite busy…) I think someone died in at least half the stories, and you dark souls killed off at least 26 characters in 35 stories (not counting “mounds of bodies,” war casualties, etc.). After reading them all a few times, I needed some emergency baby goat videos.

But then I couldn’t wait to read them again. Some great writing this week, which meant tough judging. Thank you for sharing your vivid, thoughtfully-crafted work with me and with the world!

Honourable Mentions

My Captain by Adam Houlding

A heartbreaking story about the long shadow of war. Ten years have done nothing to heal the broken narrator, and one gets the impression that he or she has been chasing feeling of any kind the whole time. It’s not just enough to feel the normal pain of a tattoo, but “I force a mistake. Again. Again.” And it’s not just pain that is needed, but “septic pain,” festering and diseased. A visceral piece.

CHRIS AND MIKE vs SCUM AND VILLAINY by Brian Creek (@BrianSCreek)

I was already smiling after just reading the title. Oh, scum and villainy: you are no match for Chris and Mike! This is a compact, complete story that, at the end, launches the next scene in the reader’s mind. I love that the question posed in the second line hangs in the air until the last line. It’s fun to imagine how Chris and Mike got into this situation; great use of in media res. Favorite details include Mike’s bible weapon and the prisoner’s out of date mustache, a fun morsel that tells us he’s been in prison for a while. Also, I want Chris’ tattoos so bad now.

Circle by Mai Black

One of the many things I appreciate about this story is how the author manages to evoke emotion with simple language. The piece wouldn’t have worked so well had the language been more flowery. This clear, careful prose is a perfect fit for Jonathan. The imagery it creates manages to keep the reader with the ashes even as the people drive out of the story. And in the quiet after people, water gains a voice and becomes a character of its own. I love eternal cycle that takes place as “wind whips the waves.” How beautiful to be a part of everything even after death.

Amid lots of murder and violence this week, this story stood out for its peaceful and assured writing. Death doesn’t have to be sensationalistic to carry dramatic weight. This was some of my very favorite writing of the week, and I only wished it had incorporated the photo prompt more clearly.

3rd Place

Him by Marie McKay

As I read, I could feel myself getting a bit drunk on this story. The colors, tastes, and sounds—it was like synaesthesia! This sensual writing is absolutely right for the story’s content, as the characters sink into one another like tattoo ink and become lost in their need to consume one another. Time is moving fast and they are grasping for something to make them feel strongly. I am absolutely smitten with these phrases: “written through the layers of me,” “the edge of a story flashes above shirt collar,” and “I lean in to hieroglyphs.” Delicious.

2nd Place

Under by Jacki Donnellan

I was entranced by the slow, quiet, intimate destruction of this piece. The events of the story are so unusual, but the skillful writing makes it feel familiar and uncanny. I could really picture the “inked wings that beat to the rhythm of my breathing” and even the tiny hole that is a portal to the howling emptiness within the narrator. Small details of dialogue can do a lot of work in a micro, and the use of the word “hun” told me a great deal about how close these two people are, which made the predatory moment—when the victim is “slowly sucked in, atom by atom, along the thread-wide entrance to my soul”—even more chilling.

Winner

Sleeping Beauty by Lynn Love

Such layers to this gorgeous story! Each time I read it I was rewarded anew. What I loved most was the sense of constant motion, which starts right in the first line as “inky slithers melt into life.” That creeping and crawling builds, and I could almost feel the tattoos moving over my own skin, thanks to the precise language like “flicks her scales,” waves that “roll across your chest,” “unfurls,” “nips,” “snatching,” “weave and warp.”

This take on the prompts was a clever nod to Angelina Jolie’s recent turn in Maleficent, though this strong piece stands on its own.

Here, the tattooist’s needle stands in for the spindle that pricks Sleeping Beauty in the fairytale and seals her fate. Thorny brambles protected Sleeping Beauty, but thorns choke the unfortunate man in this story, and something tells me he won’t be awakened in 100 years.

Sleeping Beauty

Lynn Love

Under the leer of a new moon, inky slithers melt into life.

A mermaid licks salt-crusted lips, flicks her scales and dives, breaking through the waves of skin that roll across your chest.

The rose unfurls its petals, nips at flightless doves, thorns snatching at banners declaring ‘Stella’, ‘Gloria’ ‒ ‘Mum’.

You wanted ‘ink’ ‒ to be a man. Now the pictures that smother your skin smother you.

They weave and warp to form a tattoo where you never felt the sting before – your throat.

You dream of the needle, of the sea, of Sleeping Beauty cradled in her bramble nest. You stir, gasp, swallow.

Ink is your final breath-taker.

Jun 042015
 

Welcome back to MB. Hope you’ve got plenty of ink this week. Have fun!

An undertaker, also known as a mortician or funeral director, is a person who prepares dead bodies for burial or cremation and makes arrangements for funerals. The term undertaker refers to anyone who undertakes a task. The specific use of the word emerged in the 1690s from funeral-undertaker. One of the more specialised roles of the undertaker is embalming: the science (or some would say art) of preserving human remains by treating them with chemicals.

Angelina Jolie, who celebrates the big four-oh today, once dropped out of acting school and took a home-course in embalming to pursue her ambition of becoming an undertaker. Jolie is the daughter of actors Marcheline Bertrand and Jon Voight. Her parents separated when she was very young, and her mother gave up her acting career to raise her. When she was fourteen, with the approval of her mother, Jolie’s boyfriend moved in with her, and they lived like a ‘married couple’ for two years. It was during this period that she developed an interest in punk culture and embalming. Once the relationship ended, Jolie returned to acting school and went on to star in the Tomb Raider movies, win one Academy Award and be nominated for another. In 2008 Jolie spoke of her punk phase when she said:

I am still at heart—and always will be—just a punk kid with tattoos.

Lets wish Angelina a happy birthday with this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Todd via CC.

Photo Credit: Todd via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Jessica Franken, winner of MB1.22, and MB1.33! Read her winning stories, and what she has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with UNDER and ending with TAKER 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.

Micro Bookends 1.33 – Results

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May 312015
 
Photo Credit: gfpeck via CC.

Photo Credit: gfpeck via CC.

Welcome to the results bit. A huge thanks to this week’s judge, Marie McKay. Here’s what she thought of it all:

This week, the bookends and photo prompt did a great job of fuelling your creative juices. There were common threads in many stories, but there was a huge amount of diversity, also. I was looking forward to reading soap-inspired stories based around feuds, romance, betrayal, adultery, and domestic turmoil! You did not disappoint; indeed, you went a step further, handling these themes, as well as others, with great expertise and originality.
Needless to say, I found judging incredibly difficult but here goes:

Honourable Mentions

If Walls Could Talk by Steven Stucko

I enjoyed reading about the interconnected lives of these neighbours as their situation had a quirky set-up with one set of neighbours inadvertently providing relationship counselling for the other as a result of a thin set of walls. I liked how this author uses one of the conventions of soap opera- characters overhearing one another- for the purposes of good!

A Last Hurrah Geoff Le Pard

The poignant imagery in this piece drew me to it.

‘She spreads her hair like rationed butter barely covering her wholemeal scalp.’ Time has passed and this couple’s relationship and circumstances have changed, highlighted in a description that made me ache: ‘Her eyes glisten, rummy where once their twinkling killed me.’

Later, we are made aware of the absence of someone, and the sorrow that the story is steeped in becomes even more apparent:

‘…space…too cramped for three but now we struggle to fill.’

Neighbourly by Steph Ellis

This is a sinister tale of deception. I love how Frieda masquerades as a Good Samaritan while all the time she is stealing from her dying neighbour.

‘Pleasantries, goodbyes.’ These two words, for me, are a wonderful social commentary on the fleeting nature of our neighbourly interactions.

3rd Place

In the Billow of the Storm by Lynn Love

The language of this piece made it stand out for me. ‘My brain tumbles.’ This line indicates the impairment of the main character’s thought processes. This is further highlighted with a focus on their vision of the world- ‘the droplet’ caught in an eyelash ‘cuts daylight into rainbow ribbons.’ Their perception, probably as a result of hypothermia, is distorted. ‘Snug in the cold as flakes melt to music’ is beautiful and tragic. Eloquent writing!

2nd Place

Shed from Grace by Foy S. Iver

I had to do a little research for this one, but it was worth it. The theme of purity is explored in this original take. A goddess is thought to live inside the Kumari before the onset of puberty.

‘Soap bites at Sajani’s eye-flesh’ as she is washed by her servant. The pain experienced physically, here, mirrors the inner turmoil the young girl is feeling at having become ‘impure’ with the onset of menstruation. The character’s awkwardness, now, in her own body is revealed in the line: ‘She squeezes her thighs tighter as the cleansing hand drops below her waist.’

Ironically, the physical development of the girl does not spell progress for her; instead, now that the goddess has left her ‘vacant’, ‘…hovel will replace her palace. A dirge will silence her opera.’ Wonderful use of language and bookends.

Winner

Thud by Jessica Franken

I found this winning flash piece outstanding. The story had me wince throughout because of its use of onomatopoeic words to signify an old man’s fall in the bath.

The opening dialogue is deliberately disjointed, displaying Jean’s anxiety at her husband’s fall and providing the reader key information right from the outset, ‘Soap…he…slipped…his head.’

The details of ‘backwards nightgown, barefoot in the snow’ are raw and distressing.

One of the main features of this story is that – again through thin walls – a neighbour, the narrator, hears the noise of the man hitting his head.

‘So close I shot out my arms to catch him…’ This part of the story is so authentic, I almost wanted to shoot my own arms out.

Even in such a short word count the reader is given a taste of what the narrator’s backstory might be when s/he wishes her/himself away from urban life and its interconnections, imagining ‘tending sheep on a quiet hillside.’
This story will stay with me for a long time for many reasons but especially because of this line:

‘… but walls are still solid and living still cruel.’

Well done on an excellent piece of flash fiction!

Thud

Jessica Franken

“Soap…he slipped…his head…” Squeak—thud. Ten p.m., my neighbor Jean at my door, backwards nightgown, barefoot in the snow.

Squeak—thud. I heard it through the bathroom wall. Squeak. So close I shot my arms out to catch him, but walls are still solid and living still cruel. Thud.

Squeak—thud. I heard it and knew Jean would come. In the seconds between thud and knock, even as I moved to the door I imagined myself far away, tending sheep on a quiet hillside.

But then the knock, then a deep breath, then Jean in my arms, her grief an aria in life’s savage opera.

Micro Bookends 1.30 – Results

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May 102015
 
Photo Credit: Beatrice Murch via CC.

Photo Credit: Beatrice Murch via CC.

Good evening, afternoon, or morning to the international flash fiction community. Ready for some results? A huge thanks to R Matt Lashley for going all judgemental on us this week. Here’s what he thought of it all:

Alright, alright. It’s good to be here ladies and gents. Thank you for coming out tonight. My, aren’t you a nice looking crowd. I didn’t realize the annual convention of beautiful people was in town. Must be my lucky day. I know you’re all anxious to get back to whatever it is that beautiful people do all day, so let’s get right into the results …

Honourable Mentions

The Speech by Sarah

There’s a lot (a whole lot) of telling in flash fiction. Lots of summarizing, lots of lecturing. I believe, because flash is so compact, the tendency to tell rather than show is innate within the form. It’s a struggle to show details in such limited space. And that’s why writing good flash fiction is an art.

This week there were a number of pieces that did a good job showing. This author balanced showing and telling in a logical way. This story also provided advancing conflict all the way to the final scene—something else that is hard to do in flash. Very well-written story.

Mechbot Nanny by asgardana

What kind of mechbot thinks, “First off, I’m not even supposed to be here.”? A mechbot with a human attitude, that’s what kind. And we don’t find out exactly how human until the end of the story. In flash, pulling off a transformation in a character’s worldview is difficult. This piece managed to do it in an engrossing way.

Easy Like Sunday Morning by to_the_future

This piece was a nicely told, straightforward story. Little details make a story real. For example, the guy flicking away the cigarette butt–great little detail that instantly added credibility to the story. Hearing the character think “first of many [cigarettes]” gets us thinking about being bored by the tedium of performing a task we know we won’t enjoy. And maybe even conveys a little nervousness. Excellent details, excellent story.

3rd Place

Sitting in a Tree by Jessica Franken

When you have so few words to get a story out, titles can play a huge role in bridging gaps and providing context. The title of this piece put a nursery rhyme into my head and then played off of it starting with the first line. It worked well.

The narrator tells her love story which starts off with a happy ending in mind, but she revises the story a few times, adding nasty bits of real life, until we’re left with an unquestionably unhappy ending.

The parenthetical style in the last paragraphs made the ending choppy, like what-weres and what-could-have-beens were churning around in a food processor. It was unusual, but somehow worked to create a nice chopped salad of emotions.

2nd Place

Winging It by Tamara Shoemaker

After finishing the first half of this piece, I was punch-drunk on metaphors—and loved it. It was tight too—all of the images were relevant. It’s so easy to get overly verbose or to take that universal word hammer and pound relationships together that end up corrupting a story or, at the very least, diluting its power. This piece forged imagery and story together quite nicely.

Winner

Note to My Sister by Rebekah Postupak

The twist at the end sold me on this piece. I’m probably dumber than most people reading this, but I like a clever surprise as much as the next guy. Probably more so since I rarely see them coming, ‘cause of being dumb and all.

I enjoyed the list structure. It was technical and my mind immediately wanted to follow the enumeration (first, second, third, last). This was a nifty, well-written, picturesque little story that employed an effective technique to surprise me. Those of us who’ve written and read a fair share of flash fiction know firsthand how difficult it is to pull off a surprise revelation. Kudos, author!

Note to My Sister

Rebekah Postupak

First, I’ve brought your underthings, which are silk and smell of lavender. (That was a surprise!)

Second, your pantyhose, so nobody will guess how long it’s been since you’ve shaved. You crack me up! We don’t care, but I know you do, so.

Third, a new dress. It’s secondhand (sorry about that), but just LOOK at all those pearls!! It could be a queen’s gown, and the sea green matches your eyes.

Last is hair and makeup. I’m lending you my favorite lipstick. Just this once.

There, you wild angel, you star of my heart, you death-snatched sister, are you happy? You finally get your wish to be a lady.

Micro Bookends 1.24 – Results

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Mar 292015
 
Photo Credit: lisa rigby via CC.

Photo Credit: lisa rigby via CC.

Thanks for dropping by for the results show. I must admit I thought PREJUDICE as the closing bookend was a step too far. Of course you all rose to the challenge and came up with a crop of fantastic stories.

A huge thanks to Foy S. Iver who has not only done a splendid job of judging, but has given feedback on everyone’s stories. Thanks Foy! Here’s what she thought of this weeks entries:

Wow! I think this week might have been particularly challenging with the bookends but how I loved the prompt and introduction. Paring Pride and Prejudice (one of my favorite books) with Photoshopping (one of my least favorite societal sins) is such a deliciously difficult juxtaposition. With that being said, the winners were those stories that evoked emotion, smoothly incorporated the bookends, and captured that sense of life being “retouched.” Thank you to everyone who dared to pick up the challenge and to Dave for laying it down!

Relaxed and Messy by Sal Page

I’ll never be like that.” Such an oft-repeated phrase that usually means someone will be just like that. Great final bookend with the double meaning on prejudice! Is her family judging the “bits on the carpet” or her decisions in a partner? Unfortunately, probably both. Well done.

Of Love and War by legreene515

A sweet tale of love temporarily torn apart, it felt especially poignant because it’s something I might need to be brave through in the future. I loved the beautifully descriptive line “The chopper’s flurry, like a manic butterfly evacuated him from his memories.” Lovely.

Sepia Day by michaelsimko

I adored the uniqueness of this flash! The line “[t]he site of a lady in a wedding dress using a plasma cutter is frightening and exhilarating” says it all.  Who wouldn’t want to see that? Beautiful phrase “sepia moon light.” Also, the fact that the zombie bride’s name Kamili means “perfection” tickles my linguistic brain. Fun Trivia: If you look up the name Kairu on Urban Dictionary the 2nd definition is “A human piece of Swiss cheese.” I hope that wasn’t his fate…

Daddy’s Girl by N J Crosskey

How true this is “the silence cut deeper than any scorn ever could.” It’s that feeling of being cut off that destroys. Many of the stories this week dealt with the pain that comes about from a clash in worldviews and this one was particularly moving. Great job.

A Wedding by Susan O’Reilly

This was one of the few stories that gave us delight and happiness. A beautiful portrayal of prejudice left behind. I loved the structure of this piece; the way the writer styled it looks like columns inside a church on a wedding day. Thanks for bringing some light. 🙂

State By State by stevenstucko

All I had to read was “bacon-rolled mushrooms and tiny crab quiche” and I was hooked. Pair that with a great music selection (kd lang), and I want to be there! This story did a nice job of showing us more than politics and regulations; we see human emotion behind the change. The penultimate line (“tardy Justice of the Peace finally arrives with the paper work”) feels rather indicative of the current process. Good job.

Runaway Vows by Susan O’Reilly

I read this poem out loud to fully appreciate it; the rhyme is lovely. Both sweet and solemn, the writer’s words paint us a picture of young love not to be restrained. I was happy they found peace after “their vows [had] been sworn.” Very touching.

Pride & Greed by Holly Geely

Your wife-to-be ran off with your brother” a ready-made episode for Jerry Springer! I loved the contrasting opening and closing lines; we start with Mandy’s sin (pride) and end with society’s (prejudice). My heart went out to the MC but the last line was hopeful so I’ll imagine she was brave enough to speak up. 🙂

Tradición No Más by stevenstucko

¡Qué pena! Of all the people to “no-show” your wedding, your father is one of the saddest. “He won’t give her to a Mexican” this line snatched my heart from my chest. I wanted to scream, what’s wrong with you people?! A patch of levity with “tuxedo stuffed groomsmen” gave quite the amusing mental image. Overall, heart-breaking write.

Differences by Mark Morris

With the prompts many types of prejudices were brought to the forefront and this story’s might’ve been the most relatable for me, especially the sentence “he’s a little more tanned than everyone else in my family.” Being of Irish-Welsh decent, almost everyone in my family are all gingers. I married a very tan Thai-American and “Differences” made me appreciate all the more not having to struggle against a hateful ignorance like this. Job well done.

CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE BRIDES OF VENGEANCE by Brian Creek

Chris and Mike are becoming a weekly favorite of mine and this was no exception! Usually, all fun and games, this episode explored tragic themes. We get a glimpse of  Chris’ dark past (“before I was institutionalised”) and watch as he struggles to handle the death of a former colleague. I hope you get your ghosts, Chris.

The Trespasser by stephellis2013

Wow! So many chillingly beautiful phrases throughout this piece: “Pride had crept through the house for centuries,” “a greedy grasp that mouldered its way down barren corridors,” “it scented something new, and as yet, uncorrupted,” “[m]urmured their displeasure,” and my favorite “only the house could decide who stayed” Eeeeee!!!

I debated and debated whether to place this and bump one of the HMs but ultimately, decided I couldn’t find the Photoshop element. I would give this a Special Mention for most fear-filling entry if I could. 🙂

What’s in a Name? by Stella T

“Pride Ann Joy” Oh so painful! But such a sweet tale of fatherly love and pride in his daughter. This was one of the few uplifting stories this week and I enjoyed the smile. I’m certain that the sister is loads more thankful that she didn’t get tagged with “prejudice.”

Pride Left or Right? by stu06bloc9

Great commentary with this piece! Now we’re shipping robotic women and do you want one who can think for herself or one who panders? At this point in our history the antecedents of Pride104 are only just outselling Pride107. Let’s hope intelligence and reliability win out over that “extra-sensory responsiveness.” Also, I loved “she computed” in place of “she thought”!

The Happiest Day of My Life by Geoff Holme

This flash did an amazing job of painting people in less than 150 words. The voice was captivating and emotions soar to know that they’ll be together, only to crash again on reading Mum wasn’t there… Dad tore up the invitation.” I liked that it presented support in the face of differences though, ending on a laugh with the words, “100% heterosexual but not a trace of prejudice.”

Taking Stock by Ed Broom

It’s funny that some professions are seen as less despite the massive paychecks they draw in. Just reading “I spent yesterday morning in a bluebell field pretending to use a laptop, and that’s my mortgage covered this month” made me ask where do I apply? I loved the final bookend (“her academic prejudice”), too. Very fresh.

Mrs. Martin’s Lonely Heart’s Club by voimaoy

This was one of the stories that utilized the bookends seamlessly! The line “not necessarily beautiful,” is painful and made me feel for those sad hearts entering Mrs. Martin’s Club. Also, I did wonder at the high mortality rate in the female founder’s men…

Regrets by mediocremeg14

With the rise of Bridezillas, this apology (“I was so caught up in my “Perfect Day” that I didn’t register how unhappy you were”) is unfortunately relevant. These days, even the flower arrangements are more important than the groom. 🙁 I was happy though that she knew enough to see her mistake!

Photoshopped Out by zevonesque

What began as bride contemplating her “day of days,” the writer slips in an intriguing turn on assumptions with the phrase “[s]he corrected her thoughts; not alone – with her husband”. As the tale closes, I’m left with the sense that she’s getting married more for her sister’s pain than for her own happiness. Well done.

Wedding Crashers by davejamesashton

Goodness, having your wedding crashed is never a good thing but when the crashers are half-raised corpses, I’d wonder about what bad luck is in store for the rest of my marriage – if I lived that long! I liked the closing line on this one (terminate with extreme prejudice!”) because it was the first example of prejudice as a very good thing! Fun write.

Honourable Mentions

APPROACH WITH CAUTION by Jacqueline Pye

I thought this would be a little story about rivalries until I read “man” in quotation marks. Then that “satanic finger” pointed and the world spun on its head with a vindictive explosion. The author gave us a smooth use of bookends (“Anyone else for prejudice?” LOVED this!), and an excellent allusion to the Photoshopping bit (something hidden because it’s not what the mundane world wants to see). It definitely deserves an honorable mention.

The sins of the mothers by Geoff Le Pard

This was one I kept rereading, knowing each time I would find something I missed. The bookends were invisible (what I look for) and we clearly see two worlds (or more accurately, “two women” in the same body), one that society wants hidden and the other that’s accepted. The truth is good girl and bad girl are part of her and “sometimes [she’ll] need them both.” The wordplay and repetition of going back to the dictionary also won me over. Stellar job.

SAMSARA by Jessica Franken

This story was one of the stands out for cleverly incorporating that sense of something hidden, something edited. The beautiful title and line “As kids we played mirror image” clue the reader in that Vivian is more than her sweet and proper exterior.  Her “evil twin” will be away for the honeymoon but not divorced from the cycle, and perhaps in the future Vivian will once again be the reflection rather than the reflected. Bonus points for the gorgeous line: “as if not to wake her wedding dress.”

3rd Place

Without Prejudice by Geoff Holme

As soon as I read this, I knew it had won a placing. What a perfectly original piece and format. The bookends were quiet – though that name, (“CHOLMONDELEY FARQUHARSON”) I had to look it up and see if it was real. It very much is – and though the story strayed from the idea of retouching, it made up for it by resurrecting the spirit of Pride and Prejudice. Some of my favorite parts? When Mr. Darcy “suffered impairment to his pride” and when “Miss Bennet’s unwarranted prejudice…was rekindled” and of course “{undecipherable scrawl}”. A worthy flash.

2nd Place

The Family Way by Marie McKay

What an opening line:Pride is the colour of a cheap gold band.” Volumes spoken in 9 small words. Oh how these phrases sprang into heart and memory: “secrets scurry into ancient alcoves that reek with the stale stench of tradition,” “new spun funereal tones,” and “pursed lips of prejudice”! Flawless bookends and a quintessential tale of retouched history. Whether this was an arranged marriage or a shotgun wedding, we’re not told but the ache at the last is the same because she lies but “he lies too.” Brilliant flash.

Winner

My Life in Sunlight by Jacki Donnellan

Wow… So much of this imagery swept my heart away, “Pride bathes my life in sunlight,” “white freesias cascading,” “tears draggling my wilting bouquet” and “rustling white crepe.” The use of italicized text reveals what’s real and what’s “reprinted.” One woman’s struggle as a single mother to raise her child, pay rent, and “ward off pre-judgement” for lack of a man. Her life re-imagined to better suit a society where diamonds, husbands, and babies come in that exact order. I have not had a harder time picking between two stories for the winner but “My Life in Sunlight” won thanks to its MC. My soul wants to wrap this woman in a hug. Masterful work.

My Life in Sunlight

Jacki Donnellan

Pride bathes my life in sunlight; my memories reprinted in white.

I joined you beneath the honeysuckle bower, white freesias cascading from my hands.

I didn’t wait and wait in a draughty corridor, tears draggling my wilting bouquet.

I kept the dress- for our daughter, one day! A wardrobe brimming with rustling white crepe.

I didn’t sell the dress to pay rent on the bedsit in which I gave birth, alone.

I took care that those diamonds on my wedding band didn’t scratch against my baby’s face, or my husband’s hand!

I didn’t wear a brass curtain ring to ward off pre-judgement; to fend off the cold sting of prejudice.

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.”

Mar 192015
 

The name’s Bookends, Micro Bookends. License to flash. Welcome! Enjoy!

Dr. Noreleased in 1962, and based on the 1958 Ian Fleming novel of the same name, was the first ever James Bond film. Sean Connery played the suave British spy in a role he would go on to play a further six times. The plot, typically ridiculous, sees Bond being sent to stop the titular character from sabotaging an American manned space mission with a weaponized radio beam. The film established several motifs still used in contemporary Bond movies including the prolonged, stylised title sequence, the gun barrel sequence, and the role of the Bond girl.

Ursula Andress, who celebrates her 79th birthday today, played the shell-diving Bond girl, Honey Ryder (a fairly tame double entendre compared to later efforts) who has been described as the quintessential Bond girl. Her appearance from the ocean wearing a white bikini (which she helped design and sew) and large knife strapped to her thigh, is one of the most famous scenes in cinematic history, and was voted most sexy in a Channel 4 poll. Andress’s Swiss-German accent was considered too strong for the finished movie and was dubbed by German voice actress Nikki van der Zyl.

Let’s help Ursula celebrate her birthday with this week’s photo prompt (the actual contents of her bikini pocket):

Photo Credit: Wendy via CC.

Photo Credit: Wendy via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Jessica Franken, winner of MB 1.22. Read her winning story and what she has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with DOCTOR and ending with NO 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.