Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 13

Welcome to the merry month of March! I’m still scratching my head over what happened to 2013, so while I work on catching up (please feel free to tweet suggestions!), let’s jump right in with another sad farewell–  

Singing her haunting yet terrifying swan song this week is valiant judge M. T. Decker. She’s got all kinds of ideas about how a winning story ought to look: read about those ideas at her judge page. Of course she likes proper grammar ‘n’ stuff, but she also adores stories with fresh takes on the prompt or unique twists. Time to think outside of the box!

Awards Ceremony: Results this week will post Monday (note the change for this week only). Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Wednesdays (likely Thursday this week–stay tuned).  I (Rebekah) post my own stuff sometimes on Tuesdays or Thursdays “just for fun.”   

Your turn!

Word limit150 word story (10-word leeway) based on the photo prompt.

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (140 – 160 words, exclusive of title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Monday (this week only)

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Wednesday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity. 

***Today’s Dragon’s Bidding (required element to incorporate somewhere in your story; does not need to be the exact word unless instructed to do so, e.g. “include the word ‘sortie‘”):


***Today’s Prompt:

From "La Bas et ailleurs." Drawings by Jacques St.-Cere, 1890. From the British Library.

From “La Bas et ailleurs.” Drawings by Jacques St.-Cere, 1890. From the British Library.

60 thoughts on “Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 13

  1. The Barmaid’s Dance (160 words)

    The stamping of feet, voices raised in song, the tavern was packed with grey uniforms. Florian, laden with jars of beer weaved to and fro, pressing drinks into empty hands

    ‘Madam, please join us,’ the Commandant, an oaf of high mind and lower principles leered at her. Florian flashed her best flirtatious smile, ‘but who would serve your brave men?’

    Her question did not deter his wandering hands, ‘well hurry, for it’s not everyday that we celebrate such a momentous victory.’ A rough hand grasped her thigh.

    ‘Just a moment more monsieur.’ She danced away, distributing more drinks to the celebrating SS.

    Her father had once told her that a victory for some was a loss for others. A truth attested to by the bodies of childhood friends now swinging silently in the village square.

    Lives deemed worthless by ideology.

    Well not all battles were fought by men at the front.

    As these drugged buffoons were soon too find out.



    • Oh, we had a slightly similar approach (I swear I didn’t read yours before I wrote mine – I always write first lest someone’s spectacular idea overtake my mind). This is great – I especially loved the last three lines.


      • With this prompt it was bound to happen! Intrigued now to have a peruse of your approach …

        It also seems we share a similar approach of non-engagement until posting for exactly the same reasons. It’s good to know that its not just me!

        Thanks for your kind comment IR


  2. What’s in a Name?

    One of the Yanks nicknamed her “Molly Pitcher.”
    “Why do you call me this, “Molly Peetcher?” Marie asked. She did not find it an attractive name.
    “She was a heroine, in the States, in the American Revolution. She manned a cannon, so they say,” said the thin pock-marked young soldier with red hair.
    “I do not ‘ave a cannon,” she said. Her English was not perfect, but ‘canon’ was a French word.
    “No, but you are saving us. You are helping win the war, one pitcher of beer at a time.”
    “Eez no pitcher. Chope,” she corrected.
    Another soldier, tall and dark, and good looking, broke into a grin.
    “As long as there is beer in it, you may call it what you like. Marie. Molly. Same name, don’t you know?” he said.
    “Not to me,” she said, with a sniff. Her country had been reduced to a ravaged wasteland. “This is still France.”


  3. Serving Still
    Ian Martyn (www.martynfiction.com)
    159 words

    She drifted through the bombed out shell that had once foamed with life. Still intent on serving her boys, men who’s days on the front were long over. They were forever drawn back to this place, where for a few hours a week they could leave the mud, fear and hardships behind them. Where the smell was of stale beer and cheap perfume rather than death and human waste. Where there was laughter instead of tears.

    She danced past the ghostly, groping hands, arms full of the beer that made everything better, an elixir still, just not for the living. As the piano played favourite songs from home, empty tears formed on grey cheeks as they remembered sweet hearts whose faces were now a fading memory. Notes echoing into the night past chard beams, once a roof that had covered rooms where, for a price, on an old mattress, a brief moment of passion might be stolen.


  4. War-torn soldiers

    Here come the soldiers,
    With their rifles on their shoulders,
    and their war-torn bayonets
    that left enemies without helmets.

    This is part of a song I frequently hear in this bar, Vivre la vie; french for Living life.
    I asked the waiter here and he said it happened during one of the World Wars.
    A group of french soldiers made their way in this place, sat at a table and yelled at the waiter to bring them beer.
    Everybody was shocked. The soldiers’ weapons were spurting out blood and guts, their clothes were drenched in the red liquid and their faces were a mixture of crimson and brown, yet, they were merry.
    They started clapping and singing one of those grotesque songs about killing enemies with savagery.
    He said that every person in the locale tagged along, and they did that for the whole night, at which point, the soldiers passed out, dead, from injuries.

    155 words


  5. Black Velvet
    by A J Walker

    Jenny scurried through to the kitchen carrying an impossible number of beer mugs.

    ‘That’s the last one out. It won’t be long now.’ Jenny said to Evelyn. ‘Make sure these are particularly clean. The stout sticks to the edges.’

    ‘Yes, mother,’ Evelyn replied hidden in suds.

    ‘It’s good timing this, we’re running out of stout, this war’s making deliveries damn problematic,’ Jenny said.

    ‘Just waved the last of the red army away,’ said Ian as he walked in smiling. ‘I’ve got to say we’re making a killing with this war.’

    ‘Blues will be here in an hour,’ Jenny said, ‘Fancy a sandwich?’

    As clockwork every two weeks for a year the Hen & Chickens was briefly in no-mans land before peacefully swopping hands.

    ‘These blue army boys better be thirsty, we’ve got more cider here than the whole of France.’

    Ian poured two halves of stout and topped them up with cider, ‘Cheers love!’

    It was nice to be neutral.

    160 words

    (Black velvet is cider & stout by the way!)


  6. “War of the Mugs”
    160 words

    There was a wet kiss popping sound from the other room.
    Amelia paused her writing, trying to identify the sound. A quick hiss of displaced air and then another pop. It was coming from the kitchen. Amelia put her quill down.
    As she walked into the kitchen she saw three mugs sitting on the table.
    She furrowed her brow. There had been one mug.
    Another displacement of air, a smoochy pop and another mug appeared.
    It happened again and again, a cacophony of sounds like angry suitors. The mugs began to cover the table and lacking space, topple to the floor.
    This reeked of a charm. A stupid, vindictive charm, most likely from her rival.
    Well bully to that. She collected all the mugs, including the charmed original. With her arms over-full she held her head high, and walked to the open window and unceremoniously dropped them all out into the yard.
    Retaliation would be necessary. Something involving itching.


  7. One Final Round
    (159 words)

    “This pitcher of beer is for Charles,18, a farm boy, set to be a farmer, before the marching boots of soldiers made the land beneath his feet shake.
    To Charles! A good man allowed only to be half the man he wanted to be.

    This pitcher is for Jacques, 21, a baby on the way. A factory would provide steady money, but not in unstable times. Men trekked from the factory, he among them.
    To Jacques! Allowed only to be a a fine memory to his son.

    This is for, Sergeant, 28, the oldest of our battalion, a decade more than most. A soldier from the start: he saw too much not having seen enough.
    To Sergeant! Those of us here owe you. We will not allow ourselves to forget.

    This last one is for Paul,15. Too eager. A brother to five brothers, and to us.
    To Paul! For whom we will never allow ourselves forgiveness.”


  8. The Soul Jars

    “There’s another one fer ya.”
    I grumble to myself as the warlock gives me yet another jar. One more and I’ll drop them all, I’m sure of it. See, I’m a lowly apprentice. It’s my job to take the souls he captures and file them away for safe keeping. What he does with them, I have no idea. I’m only a lowly apprentice, remember?
    The humans outside, in the town, they have no idea. They don’t know he’s stolen their souls. They think themselves so brave and smart to be fighting off the neighboring kingdom, to go forth and defend themselves, to engage in all sorts of sorties. But they have no clue that the fight is really for their souls. Poor, poor humans.
    “Hurry up, girl! I ain’t paying ye to lollygag around! I need more jars fer the souls. And be quick ‘bout it!”

    146 words


  9. Wounded Soldier
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke / margaretlocke.com)
    146 words

    They talk of war as if it’s a grand celebration, a joyous undertaking, the ultimate adventure. Have they forgotten the mangled limbs of their fathers? The grieving tear-stricken faces of their mothers? Do they not realize many among them will not return?

    Given enough time anyone can forget anything. It is the blessing and the curse of our human existence.

    I can’t forget. Can’t forget the hungry mouths at home. My own mother lost in a haze of bitterness, loss, and opium. There is no one but me to carry the flag, no one but me to beat the drum. And so I toil here, with these violence-hungry men and their groping hands and leering faces. I smile and flirt with deadened eyes as I carry one more round, one more round. Just one more round.

    Wars are fought on more than one kind of front.


  10. Memorial

    She filled her jugs with that decay; the grit and crumble, the masonry chunks, the dried, dead vines, until the foot of the obelisk was clear and clean, before the authorities stepped in and moved her on.


    She took those jugs, through the marbled halls, to the prime and pristine; the suited men, the heeled women, fingers poised on swiping tablets. Their dried, dead eyes, their hair clear and clean, they turned to her like startled pigeons, and she poured those bits across the table and said…

    ‘It’s falling apart. Your memorial. It’s falling apart,’

    …before the authorities stepped in and moved her on.


    She raises those jugs, old Hannah Lightfoot, while we the people ring around that space and shout her words…

    ‘Your Memorial!’

    …to the teeth of the diggers and the swing of the axe, and I’ll sketch her in stone, her eternal poise, forever caught, before the authorities can step in and move us all on.


    158 words


  11. Barmaids Bustle Hustle

    Paul Beckman 158 words

    No one know the exact year it started but the belief is that a platoon of Yanks, battle wary and fun seeking were bragging about the various attributes of their favorite barmaids in Lyon when it got out of hand as Yanks are wont to do.

    “I bet that Marie can carry more than any other barmaid in the town,” the Sgt. said.
    And the bet was on and it became an annual barmaid weekend contest with festivities of all kinds.

    The highlight was Sundays contest. Carrying as much as possible and spilling as little, they would start at one Café and end one hundred yards away at another. Whoever ended up with the most stout in the allotted seven-minute time period was the winner.

    The barmaids dressed in their finery had their own barkeeps pouring and stacking. It seems like when they pass the hat–big-bosomed, long-armed Cherie will win for the fourth year in a row.


  12. The Faction

    “Keep it together,” Marna uttered under her breath. It wouldn’t be long now, the hardest part was over.

    “M’am I need another drink,” said the Captain.

    “Yes of course.” Marna stumbled over the unconscious soldiers scattered across her living room floor. “Here you go sir.”

    “Obliged.” He nodded and looking back at the map on her kitchen table taking one swig and setting it aside.

    Marna hoped he’d actually drink the ale this time instead of casually sipping. He needed to knock back at least half in one sitting.

    “That road is often traveled by the faction.” She pointed to a random spot on the map.

    “Really?” He took a deep sip ale. “Why would you tell us anything?” His eyelids fluttered with his next swig. “M’am?” He gripped the table.

    “War is full of dangers Captain.” Marna smirked as his head hit the table. She signaled through the window that the task was done.

    160 words


  13. They were a rowdy bunch, this lot
    @dieterrogiers – 157 words

    At midnight they had crashed the tavern, sober and hungry and tired. Now they were drunk, fat and rejuvenated. A belching, swearing, stinking passel of pigs.

    Bring us another, the pigs bellowed at the barmaid. In no time there were fresh pints of ale on the table. Equally quick their groping hands were fondling the maid’s tits and ass.

    She said no. And then again. But they wouldn’t take that for an answer. They’d bed her. One at the time or all together, the pigs didn’t care. Nor did the publican. He was used to this. He had seen it happen to all his girls.

    He knew that when the rooster crowed at first daylight, the tavern would be trashed and the barmaid ravaged. The pigs would be leaving plenty of silver on the counter to buy off their debauchery.

    And only then they’d set out to die.

    For an army doesn’t march on an empty stomach.


  14. Please note: This is a judge entry and not entered as part of this week’s competition.

    Erin McCabe
    160 words

    Into That Darkness – The 900,000

    “Evening Detective Stangil.”

    “That’s Commandant Stangil, Private!”

    Franz Stangil looked down at his Austrian Police uniform and felt a rush of confusion; closing his eyes, his mind flashed horrifically high piles of faceless dead bodies; the War.

    (“Increase the dose.”)

    The tavern slanted to a perverse angle and Franz regained calm. He was now watching his Fiancée Theresa shimmy between drunken men, laden with jars of drink, expertly sowing smiles and reaping tips.

    Suddenly large arms gripped his shoulders, forcing him to watch helplessly as another man grabbed Theresa and slit her throat in one swift cruel movement, her head slumping as a crimson pool formed at her feet.

    Before Franz could react, his limbs tightened; his throat constricting as his nervous system endlessly burned. The last thing he saw before his eyes rolled back in their sockets and he lost consciousness were two men dressed in white lab coats.

    (“Truncated holocaust punishment successful, commence extended version.”)

    “Evening Detective Stangil.”


  15. Blue Ribbon

    Martha drops the pint jars down with a thud. Her husband folds down his newspaper and raises an eyebrow. Ignoring him she grabs a ten gallon bucket and pours the content across the table.
    “If you’re not going to help, get out of my kitchen.”
    “Martha, dear, is this really necessary?”
    She grunts and spears a cucumber in half.
    “Don’t you and Mary usually do this together, in her kitchen?”
    Martha stops chopping, raises her knife, and points at the door. Her husband lifts his hands surrendering.
    “Our partnership ended when that no good lousy…”
    “Dear, she’s your best friend.”
    Martha tightens her grip on her knife and dices five more cucumbers. “Best friends don’t steal recipes.” Her sad eyes lift toward her husband. She fills a jar with cucumber spears and covers it with the steaming brine.
    “Don’t let this county fair ruin your friendship.”
    “Oh, this isn’t just a county fair, this is pickle war.”

    159 words


  16. La Barmaid.

    These soldiers blue that come
    To fill our seats with bums,
    To sing and shout,
    And sometimes fight
    For little more than jealous pride.

    What is a girl to do?
    They demand their ale and a kiss or two
    But when they squeeze
    I say, “It’s not for you!”
    They are so very rum.

    Poor men and boys,
    Some seem too young,
    Like flowers pushed into a gun.
    I weep for them, I give them all;
    For they may never see the Fall.

    The older men just drink and drink,
    They plot escape until they think.
    They cuss Les Generals to Hell,
    Wish upon them the final bell;
    But all they know is all they’ve seen.

    While in their towers
    Plot the powers,
    Waging war not for a cause
    But on these men, these innocents…
    And I must run their pots of ale.

    @CliveNewnham – 143 words


  17. the Cock’s Crow Inn

    Millicent huffed out her breath, blowing away the dangling lock of hair. Business was good. Her hands and arms were full with the dozen tankards of beer ordered by the newly returned patrolmen. “Here ye are lads.” She announced cheerfully, bustling up to their table. “All nice and cold. I’ll be right back with your food.”

    “Thank you Miss…?” The young lieutenant trailed off inquiringly.

    “Mistress Millicent sir, goodwife to the innkeeper here at the Cock’s Crow.”

    He took a swallow from his tankard and wiped the foam from his face. “Good beer, very good.” He announced, sliding a silver coin across the wooden table.

    “Thank ye sir. My husband brews it himself.” She turned to leave and squeaked as he pinched her bottom. she turned her head to glare at him. “Sir, I’m not that kind of woman!” Really! She thought indignantly. Just because her country had lost the war, there was no excuse for bad manners!

    160 words @EmilyKarn1


  18. Last Call
    by J. Whitworth Hazzard

    Valma’s arms strained under the load of beer steins, even her expert skills were tested tonight. As she unloaded the liquid comfort, she noticed the laughter and cheering of the afternoon crowd was gone and their ranks thinned dramatically.
    “One more round.” A hollow-eyed sergeant beckoned from the back table. Closing time was past, but Valma’s boss nodded grudgingly.
    The sergeant’s bloody uniform was clean and smart this afternoon. Things change quickly in war.
    The runners had come hours ago. The battle was lost; the army in full retreat. Velma tried her best to laugh at their rough jokes, touch their cheeks, and flash a flirtatious smile. It was her job to keep the soldiers insulated from the world–just a few minutes longer. By morning, they would be prisoners of war or hanged as deserters.
    Tomorrow night Valma would still be slinging beer to soldiers trying to keep reality at bay. Only the uniforms would change.

    158 words


  19. Bleak
    (160 words)

    “Musette walked this damp, ugly room, serving ungrateful soldiers wanting more than just beer. Filthy men pawed at her tired legs. No money would make her accept their indecent requests. She prayed for the news that would tell her he was killed in battle. She would suffer well through the woes of this awful life. Without his angry burden, there would be a chance for smiling, however pitiable.
    Ah! Her dream interrupted by the crash of glass from the drunken colonel. She sighs and replaces his broken mug with another, only to be thanked by a greasy smack to her bottom. She takes more full glasses to the tables, thankful as the men leave, leaning on each other as if they were moving from the trenches. She wipes her sweaty cheeks with a dirty cloth, holds her refills and moves again about the room. She turns around to the familiar tap to her neck and sees her husband standing there.


  20. The Blue Soldier

    The charcoal and sulfur of black powder assaulted my nose before a chair pulled up beside me and there he was, my soldier in blue.

    “A beautiful woman shouldn’t be sitting alone.” The whiskey on his breath told me this would be easy.

    Provocative smile in place, I turned to him. Let him think he won the game, I thought.

    He pulled me onto his lap and buried his face into my chest. My mouth dropped to his ear and I spoke while sliding the hairstick from my bun. “The war will be over before it begins.” I thumbed the casing off the poisoned dagger. “You can harm no one whilst dead.” I plunged the dagger into his side. “I win.”

    He gasped. Gunshot sounded. My stomach jerked.

    I looked down. A sleeve gun sat in his right palm, barrel smoking. Blood blossomed on my dress.

    The charcoal and sulfur of black powder assaulted my nose before my eyes closed.

    160 words


  21. Farewell Opportunities
    (160 words)

    One spring night, every villager gathered at the riverside. It looked like a Renoir scene, and one could’ve mistaken the exploding artillery along the opposite bank for fireworks. We were sick of the war and united against fleeing. I’ll never forget watching the battle, hoping our boys would hold the bridge.

    We were defiant and joyous—the hetman had ordered that wine flow freely.

    A silvery, uniformed youth appeared beside me, whom I literally looked through before acknowledging. Thereafter more fallen soldiers appeared, each patting his woundless body then cheering. Their mothers hugged them, everybody was elated they didn’t need to fight anymore, and they took wine and rejoiced with the living.

    After our victory I stumbled home with a swimming head, though holding my favorite ladies’ hands. At our doorway my wife gave me a wistful smile and led our daughter inside. I didn’t need a horseshoe nailed to the lintel to know it was not right to follow.


  22. “Southern Comfort” by Tinman
    153 words

    Time had not smiled on Scarlett O’Hara. It had laughed at her.

    After Rhett left she had taken solace in wine, comfort food and passing sailors. She had grown heavier, stockier, and chins.

    In order to live she had re-built Tara as The Hill O’ Tara, the type of Irish bar that wears shillelaghs, Leprechaun hats and inflatable shamrocks like gaudy jewellery, essentially Riverdance set to whiskey.

    Since the war ended Atlanta had become a popular stag-party venue with visitors from the North. Many came to The Hill O’ Tara, keen to see the living definition of the term “buxom”.

    One such group had just arrived and had loudly demanded her strongest beer, so she was bringing them eleven mugs of Frankly Damn, a foaming, practically steaming concoction that was eleven per cent proof and eighty-nine per cent gas.

    A couple of those each, she reckoned, and they’d be gone. With the wind.


  23. @jujitsuelf
    159 words

    A Student’s Tale of Woe

    “What does this drawing say about the artist’s view of the soldiers’ liking for wine, women and song?”

    “That he liked busty barmaids with armfuls of booze?” Nigel muttered beside me.

    I chuckled and earned myself a glare from Mr. Page, our History teacher.

    I hated all this ‘what was this person thinking when they drew this cartoon?’ nonsense. History was history, why not just tell us the facts and leave the art students to argue about what the guy with the pen was thinking as he sketched.

    This class was supposed to be about the French Revolution. I wanted tales of blood, guts and glory, the best bits of a long-dead war. Instead I was staring at cartoons and wondering whether I could commit ritual suicide with my fountain pen.

    “A thousand word essay on this picture and the three beside it, on my desk by Monday,” Page snapped.

    I sighed. I should have taken Geography instead.


  24. To the Victors

    Marie could tell from the knock at the door that Henri was as weary as she was. He usually made one delivery each week, but this was the seventh today. Even so, she was shocked at what opening the door revealed. Henri was sitting, exhausted, on a large milk jug, with twenty – no, thirty – others strewn around the porch. One was balanced precariously on the edge, and as they watched with more detachment than either would have ever imagined possible, it slowly toppled over, landing with a soft splat in the garden. She thought of the years they’d suffered through, where even a drop of the life-giving liquid was considered precious, and now neither of them bothered to move to prevent gallons of blood from fertilizing her azaleas. The cannons fired again, and Henri looked up in dismay.

    “Leave it be, love. They can’t stop killing each other, the humans, and there’ll be plenty of blood left tomorrow.”

    158 words


  25. Please follow these instructions precisely.

    In the event of invasion, the head-jars shall be transported with the utmost speed from the viewing mezzanine to the safe area.

    Under no circumstances are the head-jars to be opened, this will result in irreversible temperature change and thawing of contents.

    Each jar is equipped with a side-handle, allowing for transport of at minimum six heads per Safety Agent. Lean back slightly to ensure proper footing when transporting.

    Once in the safe area, confirm that each jar is properly labeled with name, date of birth, date of head separation. If any data are missing, consult with the lead Safety Agent for your block and follow protocols for Incomplete Head Identification.

    In the event of damage to the jars, encase in a Level 2 containment cube and consult with the lead Safety Agent for your block.

    The survival of our species depends on you. Good luck.

    151 words


  26. Perfection Is Naught But A Dreamer’s Dream
    160 words

    The first time he set pencil to paper, his hands shook.

    The second try was easier, his pencil dancing across the blank slate as the image solidified in his mind.

    The woman wanted to be remembered not as she had been at the end.

    She didn’t want strangers to gawk at the broken husk that the war had left behind. She wanted them to see the vivacious barmaid who had danced with soldiers on the nights before they were sent to their death. She wanted their eyes to be drawn to the length of her neck as she held her head high, not the stained ruins of her dress.

    She told him this in hushed words that curled around his heart like smoke.

    He drew until the pencil and charcoal were gone, until blood stained the paper but still it wasn’t enough.

    The woman on the page wasn’t her and she would accept nothing but perfection.

    So he started again.


  27. The War They Wage

    The war they wage between them is silent, the struggle unacknowledged to date. Each of them hiding from confrontation; reticent to cross the divide through no man’s land. Still, they know the truth. Claire clears the glasses the morning after, debris left uncaring, dregs at the bottom of each one. He doesn’t bother hiding it any more. He used to try, though she always knew. The shifting levels of the spirits, topped with water, if he took the time. Too many signs not to notice as they accumulated. Far too many.

    Tim is late to bed each evening – says he needs time to gear down post hours. New day, new reason. Nothing new, really.

    Claire knows she must turn the tide – a skirmish to avoid eventual all out battle. Strategic conflict may yet win the war.

    The glassware stands between them, morning after the night before. Unwashed, unglamorous. It is her opening gambit. Now, perhaps, they may fight together.

    159 words


  28. Betty’s War

    Betty walked the gardens each morning, gathering the night’s casualties. It wasn’t a real war, more a limited and somewhat pathetic infestation, yet it filled her with sadness to find the tiny bodies drifting in the beer traps like uniformed slugs.

    Worse still were the occasions wherein she found some wretch clinging to the edges of the tankard, crying in a strangely affecting alien tongue, booted feet dangling just above the foam. Oftentimes, she thought to keep one as a pet, perhaps to discern their origins and aims, but in the finish she would dispose of them all, alive and drowned, in Mister Crapper’s marvelous patented water closet. They were, after all, the enemy.

    But the battle turned that spring morning as Betty returned to the house, closing the door just as the roof was peeled loose and a face as wide as all creation loomed into view.

    “Oh,” thought Betty, looking up at this newest invader. “That’s buggered it.”

    160 words


  29. The War Artist
    146 words

    I am a war artist.

    But I can’t draw.

    I can’t draw lonely limbs or shattered bones, or frills of flesh or half-severed screams.

    I can’t draw gouges, or slashes or oozing cracks; desiccated mouths or crusted sockets.

    I can’t draw stench, or rot, or nausea, or dull blank gazes from the mud.

    And I really can’t draw drowning sorrows, or raucous veneer, or a roomful of powder-keg tempers.

    But I can draw her.

    I can draw her marching past, with her head held high.

    I can draw her eyes grazed with sadness and her mouth pinched with pride.

    I can draw the shadows that hide in the folds of her clothes; I can draw her well-disciplined arms carrying and clutching the necessary excess that has been demanded of her.

    And I can draw every used, empty vessel in her embrace.

    I am a war artist.


  30. Putting on Your War Face

    Sophia stifled a sigh as she gathered the beer steins.

    “You’re going to drop those,” Kathy pointed out, adjusting the leather corset she wore.

    Making sure to grasp the hem of her own gown to keep from tripping, Sophia shook her head. “I’m good.”

    “Want some help?”

    “No, you’ve got that large group of your own.”

    Hoisting the tray covered in over-laden platters, Kathy nodded. “Well, why not take a couple of trips?”

    “What, and subject myself to further pinching and oh-so-clever commentary? No thanks. I swear it’s like they’ve never seen a girl before. At least yours aren’t handsy.”

    “Too bad, they’re cute.” Kathy sent a sympathetic grin and pushed the swinging door open with a hip.

    Sophia took a deep breath, schooled her expression, and headed out into the dining area of The Magic Time Machine, muttering, “Damn war gamers.”


  31. Her Majesty (160 words)

    Spiraling cesspools of excrement, they were, collected into a bag of bones, presented like bastardized Michelangelo statues under incandescent tavern lights. Hard-ons on-demand. Warriors warring for women now.

    Kort was the worst of the lot with his sandpaper hands, ashy tongue and nomadic eyes. He thought because he killed some smug British bastards that he’s Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, but with a raggedy dick between his legs.

    Through sloshes of Jenever, Kort took the opportunity to remind me of his stature.

    “Rozamond, baby, you know I killed three Admirals in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy with only a three-inch knife?” he said, to back-slapping from the other sloths at his roundtable.

    I poured Jamaica Ginger extract into Kort’s next round of Jenever. The paralysis of his groping hands later would be worth it. Complete nervous system shutdown.

    War had a funny way of making heroes out of psychopaths and traitors out of heroes.

    Guess that rubbed off on the civilians, too.


  32. Internal Wars (157 words)

    Mae shoved the door and stormed outside, kicking her puffy dress, “Stupid dress!” Oh for the freedom to wear pants like the men instead of these ridiculous layers!

    Her mind returned to her selfish kids, ungrateful husband, the lazy maid, and now the unexpected visitors causing her to run from this battle called life.

    Crouching under the fence and towards the pond, she settled in and began sketching. Her handiwork revealed her deepest emotions. A woman encumbered with jars emerged, representing her life; each pot reminiscent of life’s uncontainable wretchedness spilling over in all the wrong ways, or emptiness in her life desperately in need of refilling. Someone always wanted something from her, and she was never enough.

    She stared at the disheveled woman a little longer before tearing the picture into shreds. She would not allow them to define her any longer. She would soldier on and fight, returning to the woman she knew she was.




    The dandy announced his arrival with a flourish of his expensive waistcoat and a twist of his mustache. Familiar faces cheered him in a competition to have him join their tables. Seated, he attempted to catch the moment in one minute sketches, Robert de Montesquiou warred with passing bar maids. “Still yourself. You will be seen in my musee. I will immortalize you.”

    Bar maids bustled about carrying up to sixteen vessels of beer. Capturing a likeness as well as correct human proportions temporarily escaped Robert’s hands. He blocked the aisle with his plein air pack intentionally stopping the flow of beer. The bar maid passed out vessels above the customer’s heads as Robert had his way. He began to quote his own poetry, his charcoal dusting precise dance moves across the rag paper in his light grip. She turned impertinently toward him: “Are you St.-Cere?”

    “Of course, I’m sincere!”

    WC = 150 exclusive of title


  34. The Blue Soldiers Who Come and Go

    M. conservateur,

    Soldiers are a demanding lot. When given their leave, they first stop at either the brothel or the grog house, depending upon which has the longest waiting time. Even in the grog house, their behavior is more like that of the brothel, with lewd remarks and inappropriate touching of the serving wenches.

    Then, there was proud Camille, always perfectly coiffed, her corset cinched to give the soldiers what they wanted to see—the barest glimpse of her bosom.

    When they marched from town she stood in the grog house’s doorway and sang patriotic songs but never let them see her tears.

    “Les soldats bleus qui vont et viennent*,” she lamented. Blue Soldiers was her Low Countries way of referring to the French who had come and gone across the Netherlands too many times.

    A woman such as Camille needs immortality, and submitted for your artistic refinement, a sketch of her in her glory.

    H. de T-L

    @unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)
    159 words
    *See the title for a translation


  35. Beholder (160 words)

    Olivia was a cultivated woman. She would gape longingly at a Vermeer, a Pollock, an etching of a harried woman carrying too many jugs. She saw elegance and sentiment in a brush stroke, love and loss in a smear of cyan and magenta. She tossed around “camera obscura” or pontificated on the artist’s use of light and shadow, or a well-placed ripple on a cascading gown. Admonishing me when all I truly saw was a harried woman carrying too many jugs. Art became a chasm between us, a silent war of interpretation. She bolted to chase the hues of enlightenment.

    I can picture her in a Parisian cafe, sipping espresso with an abstractionist named Emilio or maybe Alistair. Forlorn faces showing the depth of their personality and ardor for the world of art and pretentiousness.

    I smiled at the thought, and drained a Miller Lite. Glance at the wall and the painting, Dogs Playing Poker. Now that’s art, baby Dalí.


  36. The Take
    Word Count: 153

    “Come on Lil-e,” Alex said giving her a slap on the rump. “Just one more.

    “Sorry, Alex. You know Pete likes the place spotless when he comes to collect the money. Besides what would your wife say — spending your money on drink and me.” Lilly smiles and saunters away.

    “I’m leaving.” Motioning to the others, they stagger out looking as though they’re at odds with the sea and fighting to stay afloat.

    “Tonight?” asked Alex.

    “Can’t. Another time.”

    Lilly hangs the last rag over the beer keg when Pete comes in. Exactly midnight. He gets the cash box and counts the day’s earnings. Holding out his hand he says, “Good job!”

    She takes Pete’s hand. They kiss. Pete begins to undo her corset when he hears a noise. Looking up, he sees Alex at the window. “He’s here,” Pete says.

    Lilly smiles and draws him in, “Well then, let’s give him a show.”


  37. The loud boom rocked the walls knocking bottles off the shelf and glasses off the tables.

    “Well, that’s it,” Allan said and finished the last of his beer. “Time to go home to the family.” He pulled a few singles from his wallet and dropped them on the bar.

    “No way,” Judy said. “Take your money. No one’s going anywhere.” She started to pour him and his friends another round.

    “Come on, Jud,” Allan said, “Close up and go home. The enemy is right over the county line pushing our boys back. They’ll be swarming the town in no time. You either close up and get out of here or they’ll burn you out of here.”

    “Atlanta’s surrendered,” someone with a radio yelled from the back of the room.

    “Allan, my grandfather built this building with his hands. We’ll stay open.” She pulled a shotgun from underneath and placed it on top of the bar.

    155 words


  38. L’Enfer, C’est La Guerre
    (158 words)

    “War is Hell,” the barmaid reminded him, placing a mug of pale lager before him.

    Until now, Colonel Boniface had never understood the sentiment. He lived for battle! Primping for the mirror in his dress blues. Saluting his men as they charged bravely past him, into the fray. And how the ladies loved an officer! (War widows needed comfort, too.)

    And his Angelique, ever faithful, waiting at home.

    Boniface regretted nothing, until that bullet found his brain.

    “Vive la mort,” was the motto painted across this tavern’s wall. Time had no meaning here. Golden Horde, Napoleonic infantrymen, soldiers from conflicts past and future, all passed through. Some were heading home. Others…

    “Angelique… I’m sorry,” he whispered.

    The barmaid’s dress twirled as she turned away, head held high, cradling a dozen empty beer steins. Outside the tavern, a bugler played his muster call.

    Boniface drank his beer — a final comfort — and looked to the door with dread.


  39. A Clean Fight

    The child burst into the room with the kind of joy only the young can muster. He yells, “The War is over! We have won!”

    While the patrons leap from their seats, hugging and cheering, I quietly carry the armful of jugs to the sink and set about scrubbing them. I do not share their elation. With the war over the men will be returning, to their wives, to their children, and worst of all to their jobs. I find myself scrubbing harder, my teeth grinding. My mother will be on the hunt immediately, any war hero will do, she’ll have the wedding arranged before these jars are dry.

    Well I have news for them all. My war is not over, it’s only just beginning. I will not submit to the slavery that is marriage, I will defend my independence. If a man wants to take this job from me he’ll have to fight me for it!

    157 words


  40. To Serve

    I didn’t want to serve the soldiers. I told the Innkeeper I wouldn’t be in the same room with those who ravaged my city. I flounced away, head held high, chin tilted haughtily, skirts rustling.

    I heard him mutter “We’ll see about that, my girl.”

    I paid no attention but I should have…oh, I should have.

    I took the last of pitchers to be washed late that night, after the soldiers left and came face to face with an old man who leered at me, blew some powder in my face and muttered evil sounding words.
    Now every day, I move back and forth amongst the soldiers, arms filled with twice as many pitchers as ever I could carry before, head held high, chin tilted haughtily, skirts rustling, but my eyes stare blankly, my tongue is still and my mind is no longer my own.

    I am doomed to serve the soldiers until the day that all wars shall end.

    160 words {not including title}


  41. SAVE THE JUGS (156 words)

    I wobble down the stairs and one of the jugs slips down my arm. Claaaaaaang, the echo of its death bounces off the walls of the staircase.

    “Hurry. Hurry. You are the only one that can save them. The blue soldiers are coming”

    I trip on the last stair and wiggle through the cellar to the abandoned tub where I am keeping the jugs safe. I don’t know why they want me to save them but when they give you an instruction, you don’t disobey.

    Last month, they told me to wet the front porch with my pee. I don’t know why I allowed Margaret to talk me out of it because since that time I’ve been locked up for my disobedience.

    “Thomaaaaaaaaaas” Margaret’s voice shatters the silence of the night.

    “Dang” the sound of the fallen jug must have woken her.

    “Thomaaaaaaaaaas” she howls, “Frances has broken her bonds again and she’s breaking my jugs”



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