Flash! Friday # 23

Flash! Friday Round 23 is now closed. Even the courageous circus kids were no match for your creative storytelling! Thank you so much for coming out to play. Of course, please do read & comment on the stories–your input is such an encouragement to all these fine writers. The judge’s results will post late in the day Saturday ET. See you then!

Welcome to #FlashFridayFic Round 23! Here in the U.S. it’s Mothers’ Day weekend, in which we mommies force our families to make (or take us to) dinner. While purportedly it’s to honor us, the real reason (as any mother would affirm) is to ensure the dear savages actually know how to do this before being lovingly flung from the nest.

And so in honor of Mothers’ Day, I offer up two sweet children. (No, not mine, though thank you for asking.) Let your tales be your tribute, whether it’s the I-love-my-mommy sort of tribute or the kind that comes with threats of armies surrounding your city and cutting off your water supply. Have fun! or not, of course, as you wish. (As ever, here are the guidelines).

Round 23 judgonomy is provided by writer extraordinaire and baby cow-adoring SVW member Jaz Draper. (Be sure to check out her judge page to see what she looks for in a winning entry.)

Counting down from 3…. 2…. 1….

Word limit: 200-word story based on the photo prompt. Ten words’ grace on either side, because mothers are nice that way.

* How: Post your story here in the comments. Include your word count (190-210 words, exclusive of title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one.

* Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday’s on Baltimore time)

Winners: will post tomorrow (Saturday)

Prize: A loving, e-trophy e-dragon e-badge, a heart-warming original winner’s page here at FF, a magnificently maternal 60-second interview feature next Wednesday, and YOUR NAME piped in pink frosting across eight dozen cookies (at least emotionally speaking). NOTE: Winning and non-winning stories alike remain eligible for selection for Monday’s Flash Points. 

* Follow @FlashFridayFic on Twitter for up-to-date news/announcements/tips for making a mother dragon happy.  And now for your prompt:

Jose & Nena Andreu, ca 1906

Jose & Nena Andreu, ca 1906

86 thoughts on “Flash! Friday # 23

  1. @StephenWilds
    Mint in Box – 210 words

    “Dearest,” Stefan called to his overly sociable wife. “Come, these are the children I was telling you about.”

    Marlabelle didn’t so much as walk as she glided in her expensive blue dress with the frills and poofy backside. She strode over with a smirk.

    “A charming trick,” She remarked, as the two children showed off their useful acrobatic skills.

    “Yes, darling, these are the circus children I was speaking to you about. May I introduce young Ricardo,” the boy extended a hand from his position atop his sister, “and Abigail.” She curtsied, never for a second causing her brother to lose balance.

    “And these are what you want me to purchase?”

    Her husband nodded in agreement.

    “We are well trained,” Ricardo said upside down.

    “And well kept,” Abby added.

    “I think they are perfect for our needs,” Stefan insisted.

    She looked back at the children. “Do you know where we are going?”

    “Off world,” one child remarked. “To the Ephrata colonies I’d wager,” the other continued.

    “A slave who isn’t ready to take some risks is no good at all sir,” Ricardo said.

    “They know the danger, and don’t seem afraid,” Stefan said firmly.

    “Very well,” Marlabelle commented, removing her wallet to purchase them. “I always wanted to own children.”


  2. Dance of Death

    ‘Come on, Nono!’ she hissed. ‘We’ve got to get this right.’ Her brother wobbled, tumbling from his perch, but he landed as lightly as a cat. He curled up on the floor like a wisp.

    ‘I’m tired,’ he wheedled. He was only seven. At nine, Nano was stronger, bigger and taller, but without her brother, the plan couldn’t work. They’d practised their balancing act for weeks now, whenever they got a chance, but it was never enough.

    ‘I know,’ said Nano. ‘I’m tired too. But there’s only one chance. If we miss…’ Her little brother’s face hardened with determination. He closed his eyes, squeezing them up tight; when he flicked them open again, they shone. He snuffled, wiping his nose on his sleeve, before rolling to his feet again, and bouncing into the ‘ready’ position.

    Wordlessly, they gripped each other’s sweaty hands. Soundlessly, Nono upended himself and balanced perfectly on Nano’s head. He was the distraction, with his sweet smile. He’d always been her favourite. Nano swayed into her dance, concentrating. Her hand strayed, innocently, to her boot.

    As fast as a snake-strike, she pulled out the hidden knife, and threw it. It thunked into the target, right on the X-mark, where Mama’s heart would be.

    206 words


  3. Told you so

    “What can you do little girl?” asked Mr Doolan, a showbiz agent.

    “Why, didn’t they tell you? I can make anybody or anything appear right above my head.”

    “Haw haw – really? Ok then little girl, go ahead and make little Marty here appear above your head!”

    Nena looked over at the boy, who was still stood grinning next to his father Leonard, squinted at him, screwing up her face and pursing her lips.

    “Think you can do it?” Mr Doolan asked.

    She shot him a look. “Gimmie a minute, I gotta concentrate.”

    Mr Doolan chuckled, rubbed at his goatee with one hand. Nena turned her gaze back at the boy, then put her hands on her hips and closed her eyes. Mr Doolan turned to his companion and smirked.

    “Wonder how long this’ll take.”

    “Yeah, right!” Leonard chortled.

    When Mr Doolan turned to look down at Marty, he was gone. Eyes wide, he looked up at Nena, and saw her with her hands still on her hips, eyes still closed, but now with Marty stood upside down on her head, seemingly asleep, with his arms and legs splayed out.

    The jaws of both men dropped as they stared vacantly at the spectacle.

    “Well I’ll be damned…” exclaimed Mr Doolan.


    209 words


  4. Dearest Children,
    Mother misses you so much! Perhaps it is because Mother’s Day is approaching, but I simply cannot bear the thought of your being so far from me.
    I noticed yesterday that I had forgotten to pack Nena’s winter jumper. I hope the night’s are milder where you are. Jose Dumplkins, has that terrible tickle in your throat been keeping you awake? I hope not.
    Now make sure that you do what Uncle tells you. I do worry about that terribly steep staircase he has there, and stay back from the balcony, please!
    Mother will send for you as soon as work becomes less hectic.
    Uncle Ivor is no doubt looking after you well. I hope the mandolin lessons he promised are going well.
    I know I fuss sometimes, but being a Health and Safety Inspector, I see some terrifying sights.
    Take Care My Cherubs
    Love Mother

    Dear Mother,
    We are perfectly warm and healthy.
    We are having such fun, so do not fret. We enclose a photograph that Uncle says you will love. It should arrive with you by Mother’s Day. Consider it our gift.

    For fun we are giving it this caption: Ta Da!

    Love and Kisses
    Your Cherubs.


    • We’re hopin’ ya use yer maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand on this one…. Anyway, I’m not worried. The way your mind works, your trouble will be choosing between the tales.


  5. Stakkels Klovn*

    “Nena, you mustn’t look bored.”

    “But, Mama, Jose always gets to do exciting things. I just stand here. It was better when we played the mandolins. At least I got to do something.”

    From his bed in his room at St. Pere de Ribes hospital, Charlie Rivel smiled as he dreamed of his sister’s voice. He opened his eyes and stared at the patch of blue sky visible from the window. How he longed to be outside, but Barcelona’s July heat would only encumber his already strained lungs.

    He had been so nostalgic lately, had remembered so many things—the circuses, the town fairs, the stages where he and Nena delighted people with their feats. Les Andreu, Acrobates Mondains, people called them. And he liked to “ham it up,” as the Americans said. So it was no surprise his antics made him a clown.

    He had only ever known the circus or the stage. This bed-ridden existence was foreign to him; yet, he could see no escape. The doctors said he should be still and rest.

    Rest? A world-famous clown, winner of the first Gold Clown Award, holder of the Cross of Norfsjarneorden, rest?

    “Jose, are you coming?”

    To his sister’s voice, he murmured, “Yes, yes,” and closed his eyes.

    210 words (sans title)
    @unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)

    *Poor Clown, which is also the title of Charlie Rivel (Jose in the story and the boy in the picture). To learn more about the famous clown Charlie Rivel: http://www.circopedia.org/Charlie_Rivel


  6. “Where did those children get their ideas from? I mean look at them every break time acting out some stunt, play or game! Honestly, you need eyes in the back of your head!”

    “Well it’s hard to ball them out over breaking the school safety rules! I mean they never use anyone else for their stunts. Well just look at them now entertaining the others whilst calmly telling the others ‘not to try this at home!’ ”

    “Also you wouldn’t want to tell them off, balancing your twin brother on your head is pretty amazing and I heard their Mum is a very skilled acrobat and actress, runs in the family!”

    Six weeks later, at show and tell, the children took a programme in showing just how talented they were. They had auditioned for a roll in an action film as circus performers.

    Whilst juggling her own acting career their Mum had nurtured their talent as from an early age they’d displayed such rapport and telepathy with each other as she did with them.

    With their Mum’s help the children now run a drama club in school and promise to keep their activities in the playground to standard relaxing and playing.


  7. “Oh my GOD, mom. Are you serious?”

    “Yes, I’m serious. Now go to the store and get me butter and eggs.”


    “Look. What happened last time?”


    “What HAPPENED?”

    Pearl shuffles her feet. “Percy got lost.”

    “Lost? LOST? That’s what you call that? Five cities, three international incidents and a pirate ship later, and that’s all you have to say?”

    “Very lost.”

    “I had to convince the King of Samtalbia not to eat you, and not to let his gryphons eat you either.”

    “Yes, mom.”

    “I had to track you across the Veinous Sea. In a freaking row boat. Or have you forgotten?”

    “No mom, we haven’t forgotten.”

    “I haven’t forgotten the unique pleasure of nothing but beef jerky to eat for seventy-five days, I’ll tell you that.”


    “Yes, well, Miss Pearl, this time Percy will not get very lost, will he? As I’ve said, if you can’t keep track of each other, I’ll have to glue your heads together. Isn’t that what I said?”

    “Yes, mom.”

    “So, there you are. Now, butter and eggs. That’s all I need.”



    “Can we get some gum?”

    “Yes, dear. Butter, eggs, gum. That’s it. Okay?”

    “Okay, mom.”

    198 words


  8. The lost girl

    Children will always try to get your attention. From the hysterical telling of nonsensical jokes, to precarious acrobatics, to the drip-drip of nagging whines.

    She missed it all: what she’d give to be nagged, to see the latest heart-stopping trick.

    It’d been years, but her broken heart ached as if only minutes had passed. A mother without her daughter; like night without day.

    There had been times when she wanted to follow her – follow her, but to where? Someone, at some point, had persuaded her not to. She tried to remember who; so many people had been around her in those early days, a soup of the well-intentioned stifling her.

    She heard the front door click shut – he was home – abruptly snapping her out of this self-indulgence, remembrance. He didn’t like seeing her sad. It made him cross; ‘you need to move on’, ‘accept what’s happened’, ‘it’s been long enough’, he would shout with such venom. Did he not feel the loss?

    Painting on the bland smile that seemed to assuage his annoyance, she greeted him, her husband, this stranger.

    Every day now played out the same, grey story.

    What she didn’t know, couldn’t possibly know, might never know, was that he was ultimately to blame.

    210 words


  9. Balancing Act 199 words
    “Hey, Budge, are you ok up there?” asked Mae, as she balanced her little brother on her head.

    “Yeah, I’m fine,”

    “Blood’s not running to your head, is it?”

    “Well a little. But it’s not too bad.”

    “It will only be for a little longer. If you start to get fuzzy or buzzy, let me know,” cautioned Mae as she picked her way across the pasture.

    “Could you do me a favor and not drool? Keep your mouth shut. You’re dripping on me,” Mae complained.

    “I can’t help it. It’s hard to swallow my spit when I’m upside down,” explained Budge.

    “I thought this would be a short cut,” said Mae. “Funny how balancing your brother on your head makes even a shortcut seem long. Quit wiggling. You’re making it harder.”

    “Sorry,” said Budge. “My head itches.”

    “Probably because you don’t wash your hair. I should tell Mom,” Mae threatened.

    “Do, too. I just don’t use soap. It always gets in my eyes,” whined Budge.

    “And now your head itches and you’re wiggling and I might drop you. It would serve you right! Next time we have to walk through all these cowpies, make sure you wear your boots.”


  10. “Nena, put your brother down, this instant!”

    The young girl actually had her brother balanced, upside down, on her head. As she stood there, arms akimbo, he spread his arms and legs far apart to remain steady.

    “But, Mom!” she protested.

    “No ‘buts,’ young lady!”

    “It’s okay, Mommy,” added the boy, “it’s fun. I asked Nena to do it.”

    “That’s no excuse, Jose”

    “We’re being careful. See?”

    For good measure, he spun around on top of his sister’s head, but their mother remained adamant.

    “That’s not the point. They burn witches, here, and if they see how you are able to pick each other up with your heads, like that and throw each other around, they’ll kill our whole family.”

    Finally, Jose performed a back-flip off of Nena’s head – worthy of the dismount of a champion gymnast – sticking the landing just to the right of her.

    “But we’re not witches, Mommy,” Nena cried out – disappointed about not being able to continue one of her favourite activities with her brother.

    “I know, honey, but you have to remember that we’re not human, either, and if they burn witches – in whom they DO believe, I hate to think what they’d do to aliens – in whom they DON’T.”

    210 words


  11. Mel and Lena looked out over the jeering crowd. The noisy horde had commented on their clothes (too old fasion), their accents (too high pitched) and their faces (too much like each other, too different from anyone else). This day, they were prepared.

    “Ready?” Lena asked her sister.

    “Ready.” Mel pushed off the ground into the air. Her feet met Lena’s shoulders. As the crowd took notice, the girls both bent at the knees. In an instant, Lena was, flying, twisting around herself, catching glances of the other performers before falling safely into her sister’s arms. With a twist it was suddenly Lena standing solidly on the ground and Mel was in the air. One trick after another, they stunned the crowd. The applause drowned out the Gorrilla’s howl, the Magician’s words, the Fat Lady’s singing and the clown’s horn.

    Then, the ring-leader emerged from a tent and blew a whistle. The circus dissolved. The Gorrilla transformed back into a bully. The Magician became a mousy nerd. The overweight girl ended her song and the Kindergarden teacher summoned the clown. The class filed back into the building and the air was quiet, like there never had been any applause. Lena took Mel’s hand and they walked back into the world.


  12. Family Day

    Coffee gurgling in the machine. Pancakes fluffing on the skillet. Hushed giggles from the other room.
    Content, Jack slid his hands around his wife’s waist as she flipped the golden pancake onto a waiting plate. Within seconds, fresh batter lined the pan.
    “Good morning,” Sandy murmured, twisting in his arms.
    “Hi there.” Jack smiled, dipping down for a kiss.
    “Ow!” The stifled cry drew them both back.
    “Careful in there!” Sandy called, watching him with a smile in her eyes, though suspicion curved her brows.
    “Should we be worried?”
    She shrugged, turning back to the stove. “I didn’t hear any crashes.”
    Jack stepped away to fill two mugs with coffee. If she wasn’t worried, he definitely wouldn’t be. Besides, the munchkins were resilient.
    “Shhh, they’ll hear!” Melody whispered audibly to her younger brother. Jack smiled, sipped the nicely roasted brew, and set the second mug beside the growing stack of pancakes.
    “D’you check on them when you came downstairs?” Sandy asked.
    “I’m sure they’re fine.”
    “Mommy!” Billy called. “Come look!”
    Exchanging looks, they rushed to the living room.
    Four feet waggled at them in the air. An old photo rested between the children’s heads on the couch.
    Jack grinned at his long-time partner. “Guess it runs in the family.”

    (209 words; @AriaGlazki)


  13. Vinnie allowed himself just the briefest flash of a smile as his sister fell face-first in the muck. She darn well deserved it, but if she or their mother saw him taking pleasure at the sight of his sister’s distress, he’d be scrubbing toilets all weekend. Again.

    “This time, I’ll be on the bottom,” Veronica directed. Vinnie had been able to connive a way into being the support-acrobat in spite of his smaller size for their first attempt. If he didn’t come up with something to convince her otherwise, he’d be the one face-down in the muck next time.

    “Just a minute. I’ll go get you a washcloth,” Vinnie said, thinking fast.

    Their mother was in the kitchen.

    “Mama, do you know where’s that cup-thing Dad made me wear in my pants when we played hockey?”

    “It’s in the mudroom, sweetie. Why?”

    Vinnie drew on every acting lesson he’d ever had at the feet of his sister and replied in complete innocence with the exact words he knew would get their mother up and out the door. “Veronica said I shouldn’t tell you.”

    It was magic, like a genie granting a wish. And it was the end of his acrobatic career.

    201 words @USNessie


  14. “You know the old theory that if you don’t know you can’t do something, you can? Well, it’s true.”

    That always got the same reaction.

    “What … exactly, were you trying to do?”

    I reached up and down and scratched my heads. Blimey, how stupid questions made me itch.

    “I was wondering if people in China fell upwards.” No, I wasn’t. That would have been stupid. And only the most gullible bought it anymore.

    “I got a little too excited listening to Lionel Richie singing ‘Dancing on the Ceiling.’” The customers hated that one, but I loved it. Was it my fault that no one remembered 1980’s pop anymore?

    “I was reading a book about cloning, but it was upside-down.” That one, at least, was closer to the truth, if still a bald-faced lie.

    “I was thinking about how mirrors reverse everything right-to-left not up-and-down, and looked in a mirror while lying on my side.” That was my favorite, because it confused everyone, unless they remembered what they’d learned in physics.

    If that got a laugh, and they were good sports about the whole thing, I’d take pity on them and tell them my secret.

    195 words


  15. “Left–Annie.”
    “I’m in a ditch. You’re going to have to turn. I can’t”
    “Visitors, coming, hold still.” Gordon said, without moving his mouth.
    “Which is it–move or hold still?”

    Mom and Dad put us up to the circus trick again. They said people give more money to children. Only coins though, that’s all anyone ever has. I’m happy to get dinner tonight. But Gordon has his heart set on a giant lollipop from Minton’s grocer. Mom will never allow him to waste money on sweets. The last time we had candy…well, I can’t remember the last time.

    A large group of visitors to Hucklebrom walk over. A man dressed for Sunday service, and looking very much like our grandpa—bless his soul, walked over and inspected the violin case—having sold the actual violin long ago. He leaned over. Of course I couldn’t actually see what he was doing, because I couldn’t move my head. I heard him toss several coins inside Sounded like large coins.

    When everyone left, Gordon somersaulted off of my head. He ran to get the family’s winnings and yelled, “I got the giant lollipop from Minton’s!”

    194 words


  16. “Damn. At least it has your eyes,” Phil said, peering into the chamber. “I’ll have to recheck my calculations.”

    Mel took his place at the window and looked inside. Phil wrapped his arms around her stomach. She could feel his hot breath on her ear. “I think I’m close, honey,” he whispered. “Just a few tweaks, I promise.”

    Inside the chamber, the girl stumbled around, struggling to stay upright. The boy’s body flipped and flopped in different directions, pulling the girl with it.

    “I’m sorry it’s taken so long,” he continued, “You’ve been so patient.”

    The boy stopped wiggling and the girl managed to steady herself in front of the window. She reached out and placed her palm against the glass.

    Phil snickered. “Boy, I really screwed that up. Could you get rid of it, sweetheart? I’m going to go upstairs and rerun the calculations.” He kissed her on the neck. “Just hit the gas,” he said before he left.

    Mel looked at the two faces staring at her with familiar blue eyes.

    “Mmm…ma…ma?” the girl and boy said in unison.

    Mel bit her lower lip and hit a button. “Mama’s here,” she said, rushing in to hug them.

    199 words


  17. I don’t know what I’m doing here. But this is what bubbled forth. Haha.


    I will not perform for you.

    Yes, I.

    No, there has not been a “we” for many years, for time longer than you can comprehend, a span, a spell, a stretch much older than you can count.

    And I won’t stand for ridicule.

    For demands which cost more than you can pay.

    You can pay? Are you sure?

    Be sure. Be sure, for once I agree, I cannot take it back. You cannot have it back. There are no…refunds.

    You agree. I agree.

    I will show you.


    I have perfected a balance, a harmony, a symmetry unbound. You will find nothing like it in your cities, where light drowns out all magic. You cannot write it down, this insidious melding and molding.

    It is not only tradition, not simply a custom passed through my blood like a disease. My mother does carry it, did pass it to me, but it takes more than method, more than facility.

    You can feel it now. You wonder why you cannot move, but you find you don’t want to.

    That is me.

    And the price—it is different than you thought it would be. It is steep. It is endless.

    It is you.



  18. “Please, Louisa? You have the best posture of anyone! How am I going to have the trick ready if no one helps?”

    Louisa closed her book with a snap and set it on the bench. “It is unladylike, Balin. Mother would-”

    “She’s gonna love it! I promise!” Seizing her hand, he pulled her out of the garden toward the practice grounds.

    Louisa stumbled behind him, glaring. “You know this will not go well.”

    “There won’t be any chickens, pies, or fertilizer this time. What could happen?”

    Almost a candlemark later – including several kicks in the head, an elbow in the eye, and a tear in her dress –she was long past finished.

    “Once more. Please, Louisa? I almost had it!” Balin sounded desperate.

    Louisa sighed loudly but held her hands out. The would-be acrobat flipped himself gracefully upside-down over her head – perfection at last? – No; he’d flipped too far. They tumbled to the ground.

    “Louisa!” A female voice thundered.

    Balin’s head snapped up. He was lying on top of Louisa! He scrambled to his feet, red-faced.

    Louisa stood calmly and brushed down her dress. “Yes, Mother?”

    “What is the meaning of this?” The woman’s face blazed.

    Balin stepped forward. “It’s not her fault! It was my idea… Your Majesty…”

    209 Words


  19. Motherhood
    199 Words

    “I told you it was a bad idea.”
    “Did not. You said I could do it because I can stand on my head.”
    “I didn’t say to climb on top of my head. What was I supposed to do?”
    “You said we could be just like the kids in the picture. Said everything would be fine.”
    “And it would have been.”
    “We should have practiced.”
    “Yes, you should have.”
    “You told me to do it!”
    They argued from the moment he fell until the moment they stood in the kitchen facing their mother on Mother’s Day.
    “What possessed you to jump on your sister?
    “Mama, it was the picture. That one you found in the big box of old books from the yard sale. She said we could do it.”
    She smiled. “Sweetie, I’m sure they’re trained from birth in order to do that.” She looked at her son’s arm which now had a couple of odd angles.
    “I’ll take him to the emergency room. Go downstairs with your father. Hopefully we’ll be back in time for supper.” She always heard motherhood is a thankless job and never an easy task.

    Still, she wouldn’t change it for the world.


  20. Freak Show

    Traveling with the Arena of Anomaly was all I knew. We were a Circus of Freaks: my mother was an illusionist, my father able to lift entire Model-Ts. Later, we added a set of Siamese twins and a woman who swallowed fire.
    Our act opened the show: my mother would come on stage, choose a volunteer, ask him or her to enter a star-curtained box, and, when the box reopened, my brother and I would surface instead. Thomas would be atop my shoulders, and then would flip backwards off onto the ground where we would begin the rest of our inhuman acrobatic act. The volunteer would reappear during the finale.

    The show’s success became world-renowned by the time Thomas and I were teenagers. My parents were in their forties, ready to retire. Per the advice of our agent, we would perform our final act at the 1929 World Circus. People traveled far and wide to see us: the show sold out in minutes.

    Thomas and I were no longer the openers: this time, Thomas and I would close, completing our act on a tightrope high above the city. The performance went off without a hitch; Thomas and I used the funds to begin our own act: the Big Apple Circus.

    210 Words


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