Sep 202015
 
Photo Credit: Rojer via CC.

Photo Credit: Rojer via CC.

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

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

This, however, was nowhere near as elementary.

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

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

Honourable Mentions

Desperately Seeking by Marie McKay

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

Destination by Marie McKay

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

3rd Place

Almost Fooled by Jacki Donnellan

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

2nd Place

Schoolboy Error by Sonya

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

Winner

Merry Andrew by Karl A Russell

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

Merry Andrew

Karl A Russell

Merry Andrew jigs and reels,
A-dancing through the fayre,
To frighten boys
Deflower maids
And tug their flowered hair.

In motley caravan he comes,
To sing the summer in,
On potter’s fields
And plague pit mounds,
With revelry and sin.

A powdered face, a rictus grin,
A crown of jangled bells,
But none dare meet
His shadowed eyes,
Nor hear the tale he tells.

For when the dance is over,
And all the sinning’s done,
The tent’s took down,
The earth stripped bare,
To claim them one by one.

And Merry Andrew travels on,
To spread his lies like cancer,
Of summer’s warmth
And endless joy,
That damned infernal prankster.

Sep 132015
 
Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

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

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

Which brings me to your wonderfully crafted stories.

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

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

Honourable Mentions

This Thing, I Forget Its Name by A V Laidlaw

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

Jacked In by FE Clark

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

Teeth Like Colin’s by CR Smith

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

Test Run by Colin Smith

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

3rd place

Britopia by Marie McKay

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

2nd Place

Thump by Iskandar Haggarty

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

Winner

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

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

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

And the main character sits through it all again.

Da Capo All’Infinito

Steven O. Young Jr.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

I pull a cigarette out of the pack. “You mean ‘British’?”

“No, ‘Brithic.’” I know. “You probably don’t believe me, but there’re aliens!”

“Oh yeah?” Smoke limits my words.

“They took me in my sleep one night.” You weren’t sleeping. “They experimented on my brain.” They were trying to repair the damages I’d done to your jigsawed skull. “I bet they don’t realize I remember it all.” I wish you did. Or could.

The ashes collapse as your story ends and I dread your moment of silence. Again.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

I pull a cigarette out of the pack.

Aug 302015
 
Photo Credit: David Elwood via CC.

Photo Credit: David Elwood via CC.

It’s Sunday. That can mean only one thing! Tomorrow is Monday. Oh, and Micro Bookends results of course. First a huge thanks to Steph Ellis for picking the winners. Here’s what she thought of your suped-up stories:

To find myself judging at MB, or anywhere else for that matter, is a daunting process. I’m well aware of the high standard of those who contribute week in, week out; I know what it takes to keep submitting, hoping for kind comments and, even better, a placing. I know how it feels if you don’t receive any of these. So to all those who entered this week, I would like to say thank you for giving me the privilege of reading your stories, all 41 of them! It was a difficult task and one which I hope I have done justice to. I read all the stories more than once and even when I sorted out my winning order there were many others which just bubbled under and which I wish I could have included.

Honourable Mentions

Eve of Creation by A V Laidlaw

And God created man in his own image but when he stood up, he looked ‘a little unfortunate’, a phrase that made me chuckle. Then he made Eve, he did better.

I, Tiger by KM Zafari

Having made the beautiful animal extinct, man is reduced to creating a synthetic version and still learns nothing. What a sad state of affairs.

What Immortal Hand or Eye? by Karl A Russell

A humorous take on the Creation story, over-worked Azrael misses date with a dragoness, so gets his own back on God and modifies the tiger’s brain.

Sun Flag by Richard Edenfield

A story of the perennial clash of man with nature, perfectly described as his ‘midnight mass of blind ambition’. Even when extinction occurs, violence is still the weapon of first resort. Another lesson not learned.

4th Place

Body of Evidence by Rebekah Postupak

Powerful little story of triumph over adversity. A daughter born with spina bifida, survives against the odds and has a normal life proving the experts wrong time and again. Touchingly told with the pride and love of a mother who turns the experts own words on themselves, they were the ones who needed modification, not her daughter.

3rd Place

lunch by Jack Koebnig

One of the most seamless uses of bookends this week. A lovely dark (but humorous) monologue by a food critic of another kind delivered in such a matter-of-fact tone to make it seem completely normal. You can almost see him drooling as he discusses his favourite cuts … until his little bubble of satisfaction is burst when he bites into some delicious human morsel and finds a repair made out of metal. Wonder what he would have thought of silicone enhancements?

2nd Place

Broken by Marie McKay

A beautifully crafted chunk of darkness. The juxtaposition of the evilness of his deed in the setting of what is normally a haven – the family table where his innocent daughter does her homework, where the family take meals together, the place often described as the centre of family life – was particularly clever. But then again isn’t this the perfect place to make his creation, a mother for the child, albeit one made from the body parts of others, for isn’t she the heart, the centre of the family? Very little is described, there is a reference to a body, drilling, the table becomes a mortuary slab, eyes, apron, there is no need for anything else, we can already see what is going on. Yet this erstwhile Frankenstein is also protective, sensitive; he covers the body and takes his apron off when his daughter’s ‘midnight feet’ approach even as he hints that his daughter is aware of what he is up to, ‘Mommy will be ready by Christmas’. It makes you wonder, did he also create his daughter?

Winner

A Hungry Business by dazmb

I have been considering taking up yoga again but after this I think I will stick to the gym! As soon as I started to read this, the words just fell away and became a movie in my head. The immediacy of this effect, brought about by clever and sparing use of dialogue and narrative is a sign of a truly skilled writer. I was there, in that exercise studio. I could see the women posing (the ones who give you an inferiority complex as you struggle whilst they maintain their air of annoying perfection); Durga manifesting the power of her Goddess namesake to become the tiger, the creature of destruction; the screaming, the killing, the aftermath. I was there and I could see it all. I also enjoyed the subtle touches of humour, the slip-of-the-tongue reference to devouring instead of taking the lesson, the use of the last bookend to ‘yoga, with some minor modifications …’. All done with so little telling. This writer made it look deceptively easy. A gem of a story, a potted perfection.

A Hungry Business

dazmb

“…body and mind aligned; push back into downward dog”.

The blond, skinny decaf lattes who took this class meant nothing to Durga.

Her attention returned to the class instructor. ‘Yogi’ she insisted on being called, as if she understood the deeper rituals.

Durga channelled her energy into the tiger’s eyes taped to her chakras.

“…and forward on all fours, left leg raised, into tiger pose.”

Summoning the power of her namesake Deity, she willed the transformation.

Padding forward, amidst the screams of fear, she growled deeply “I’ve come to devour…I mean take this lesson.”

She calmly pawed her whiskers. ‘Think of it as yoga, with some minor modifications…”

Aug 232015
 
Photo Credit: Xenja Santarelli via CC.

Photo Credit: Xenja Santarelli via CC.

Welcome to the results show. We had 44 entries for MB1.44. Spooky? Not as spooky as some of your flashes. A huge thank you to this week’s judge, Rebekah Postupak, for sorting it all out. Here’s what she thought:

You fabulous flashers never fail to surprise me. Where most weeks we exclaim over the myriad directions writers take a single prompt, this week you seem to have collided in one bone-chilling mass of shadows that quite set my teeth chattering. This week story was shoved aside by étude; you paused in creepy alleyways (including a most unusual iteration by [Chris and] Mike) and creepy cellars, watched silently in creepy forests and one extremely creepy library (or at least a library with a not-to-be-messed-with librarian).  Thank you once more for entrusting your writing to us and allowing me to share my flimsy thoughts. Love this Craft? Oh yes. Oh, dear creepers in the night, yes.

Honourable Mentions

Daughter of the Crafty One by Stella Turner

Holy worldbuilding, er, Beelzebub. This story is stark, as though told by a creature in chains and blinders: the narrator weaves his portrait of this world and his own passivity in a terrifying ignorance. We are given a single tiny scene, and in that scene we see (hear?) only hints of the violent overlords. Head down, mind your own business, needle in and out. This is a tapestry of life no one would wish for, beautifully and horrifyingly sketched. Great job.

Lovestruck by Firdaus Parvez

From the opening line (“Love is the most evil person”), we were set down a glorious path of angry opposites. This dark Cupid carries poisoned arrows and bares fangs, and though he still dutifully loathes hatred, as the tale progresses, we’re shown a unexpectedly creepy exhumation of his actions and motivations. The concept was fun, the voice fantastic, and the execution here really well done as we watch him work, from the tongue-in-cheek opening to the gleeful, hand-rubbing end.

500 Miles For Freedom by Ed Broom

One of the few takes personifying the closing bookend, I loved seeing Ellen & William Craft recognized. “Craft” is a name perfectly suited to this courageous couple who made their own way in a world set against them, and it was wonderful seeing their story so well executed here, from the title to Billy’s name to their flight to Philadelphia. This modern interpretation, echoed in today’s headlines, shows that over 150 years later, we still have a long way to go. Thank you for this story—and here’s to the fight for freedom everywhere. May it continue.

4th Place

What Would Freud Say? by KM Zafari

This story was a hilarious romp from beginning to end: the dry, lonely professor who thought he could isolate the composition of love (“attraction plus compatibility”) and was proven most spectacularly wrong. But the punchline, though funny, isn’t what sets this story apart. It’s the subtle character development and worldbuilding, painted with a powerfully understated and masterful hand. And let’s not forget the fourth-wall-breaking title. This story is clever and knows it, but it’s so clever, we buy the whole kit and caboodle anyway. Awesome.

3rd Place

Strange Love by Marie McKay

Like “What Would Freud Say,” this story pairs a non-romantic human with an alien, only this time our would-be hero is following a romantic how-to book. The book’s instructions enable a fun story structure as the protagonist struggles to demonstrate a love he doesn’t feel to begin with. We follow the progress of the bumbling lover, and at a perfect calculated midpoint, suddenly his rattling tray meets the beloved’s monotone. “I cannot process tea,” she says, and in a hysterical downward spiral the lover’s efforts crumble and crash into failure. The really fantastic worldbuilding and the sophisticated pacing are what knocked me off my feet. So good.

2nd Place

First Day on the Job by Sonya

Capping a very impressive trio of runners up is this dark vignette with its chilling shades of Screwtape. The world is unveiled line by line as blacklight shines first on the humans, then on the apprentice and mentor, and then, finally, on the nature of the grim (haha) work being done. It’s dark labor set in shadowed irony against the story’s faceless title, and the unveiling is done with surgical precision. I love this piece’s intelligent voice and its arrogantly apathetic dismissal of its prey. Beautifully constructed and so very, very well crafted. Beware indeed.

Winner

Submission by Steph Ellis

“Submission” is so delicious, I could go on about it for a good full page or two: its layered storytelling, the sandwiched question structure, the portrayal of a forward-moving, lonely journey down dark roads to the “gates of perdition” (did anybody else picture the Black Gate??), the conscious, Poe-like unraveling of the narrator’s rational thought, and the double entendre of its flawless title. On one hand the story reads like a play to the judge (surely not!); on the other, for us flash fiction writers, this story speaks to the overpowering obsession we share. And therein lies the methodical genius behind this piece, because it’s specifically targeted AND simultaneously reaches past that target to a shared universal experience: that of sacrificing for something badly wanted. This story paints for us the cruel prison of the artist, the athlete, the addict. We recognize the character’s self-incrimination because those words fall from our lips at the same moment we ourselves are yielding. The character here is so well-drawn, we look deeply into the darkly lined face only to discover it’s a mirror. Powerfully, ironically, magnificently done, dear winner. And now—laptops to sleep, but only for a moment: tomorrow the flash week begins all over again, and, may God have mercy, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Submission

Steph Ellis

Love is a light that has faded from my life. The roads I have taken, dark and lonely. My journey, as I cast off friends like worn-out clothes, is one they cannot follow. It is obsession that has brought me here, to this place.

Will my words gain my admittance, my acceptance? Or will I be rejected and be sent back into the void?

I cling to my sanity, now wafer thin and leave my offering at these gates of perdition, my words, my other self. And wonder again at how I have been consumed by this craft.

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.

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.