Howdy, and welcome back to a (surprise!!!) EARLY results post! Special thanks to our judge for slaving over many a candle to pull off this incredible feat. (Over seventy stories judged in well under the deadline?! SHOW OFF!) Thanks so much, dear, valiant Margaret!!!
Second: thanks to y’all for your (once again) over-the-top amazing tales, EACH of which spurs all of us to write better every day.
And finally, thanks to those of y’all who made a donation this week to support the Flash! Friday community. This contest will always be free, but it takes a lot of time and effort to keep it going. We’d also love to offer more in terms of tchotchkies and prizes. Your financial support is very deeply appreciated.
Judge Margaret Locke says: Wow, people. The sheer numbers of the stories alone this week is enough to make this judge feel like she’s run a marathon, which is a feat in and of itself, since I. Don’t. Run. Add to that the intensity, the poignancy, the brilliance of so many of the entries, and I tell you, I feel as if I’ve run the gamut of emotions, as well.
You don’t make it easy. But you make it worth it. Two things I want to note before delving into the winners:
- If on any given week you don’t make it into the top whatever, don’t give up. While excellent story writing always shines through, there’s a great amount of subjectivity to this here judging gig. I agonize and I worry and I wonder if I’ve made the right call. I have to pick what speaks to me most, but frankly, I’m just a fellow writer myself, and I know my picks may vary from other judges’ picks, or what you yourself might have chosen.
- However, as I said in my judging guidelines, presentation counts. PROOFREAD. Proofread again. I have had to rank stories lower than I might otherwise because of typos, grammatical errors, missing punctuation, and the like.
It also really does catch my eye when authors search for a unique take on the prompt. There were numerous stories depicting the main character’s physical experience of running, numerous tales of people running from destruction, a number of stories incorporating illness as part of war. There’s nothing WRONG with that, of course, and well-written stories that follow familiar or obvious themes are still accolade-worthy. I’m just noting that the ones that break the mold do snag attention.
OK, enough of that! Onto this week’s winning stories!
TITLE: “This is Suicide (But You Can’t See the Ropes),” by joidianne4eva – frames the story well, and is so arresting in and of itself.
HUMOR: “The Battle of Marathon,” by Mark A. King. The title is wonderful, playing off history and then the contest of the story, but I particularly loved the line, “Today this, tomorrow we’ll be saying elevator, faucet and spelling things without the letter U”. Made this American Anglophile laugh out loud.
RHYTHM: “The Enemy Within,” by Rachael Dunlop. A number of stories wrote about the personal experience of running, but this one made me feel as if I were running along in rhythm to the story.
LINE: “Refugee,” by Van Demal. “Insurgency. It even sounds like a disease.” I just loved that – went back to read it numerous times.
LAST LINE: “Oracle,” by Nancy Chenier. “In war, truth is the first to perish.” Brilliant line – so emotionally evocative, and yet so factually succinct.
Jacki Donnellan, “The Winner.” I so appreciated bits of humor injected into what was otherwise a large number of depressing stories (no wonder, given the photo and the word prompt). This story amused me with its irreverence, its cheekiness, its use of the phrase, “Completely Non-Competitive Games.” This reminded me of some of the “sports teams” my children have been on, and I enjoyed the main character’s flippant war against this overly P.C. way of life.
Catherine Connolly, “Silent Struggles.” Of all the stories chronicling battles against illness and/or against the self, this one spoke to me the most, with its rich, poetic imagery, including fabulous phrases like “pared me to planes and edges.” I even like that I’m not quite sure what the main character is battling, but given s/he says, “I will not rush to get there. I know how this race ends,” suggests to me it’s someone who knows they’re facing death, but who is carrying on anyway, even if slowed from a run to a crawl.
David Shakes, “Photojournalist Hits The Wall.” Talk about opening a story with a bang! What a layered, loaded question. I simply loved it. A photojournalist as main character was a unique perspective, as well. I enjoyed the plays-on-words with “ran” and “snapped,” the varies uses of which pulled the lines into (pardon the pun) sharper focus. The poignancy of the last paragraph, and then the shocking last line, in which the photog’s focus seems to be less on the victim he helped, but more on the fame he lost, really struck me and stuck with me.
Brett Milam, “Death Throes.” Oh, that opening line. Those opening paragraphs. Visions of suicide bombers from recent news reports flashed through my head, even though we discover, of course, that this is not a current events story. Still, it haunts because of the modern parallels, and because it mixes moments of childhood in with an awful, terrifying situation in which we hope children would never be involved. The line “War was always egotistical” is horrifying accurate.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Michael Seese, “At War.” This story snagged my attention more on the second and third read-throughs than the first, because after knowing the ending, I could appreciate how well-crafted the beginning was. The vocabulary that echoes the language of war, the repetition and yet variance of body parts mentioned in the first paragraph; both of those uses of language drew me in. And then comes the line about “The Olympics is war without guns,” a line echoed at the end. Such a strong – and true in many ways – statement, and how well it contrasts with the ending, in which, indeed, no gun was used to win, but it was clear it was all-out war, with brother killing brother.
SECOND RUNNER UP
JM6, “Report From the Front.” When the first story hooked me right away, I wondered if it could hold its own against the stories to come. It did. The dead-pan announcer giving the play-by-play as if it were all a game, a horse race to be run, was surprisingly effective at emphasizing the true horrors of war – and how, from a safe distance, many of us watch, merely spectators to repeated atrocities. The humor in lines such as “Others perished from sniper fire by belligerent separatists unable to field a team of their own” magnified the absurdity, and again the horror, of war. The last paragraph, so succinct, echoing newscasters and sportscasters from days gone by, drives home the sense of futility about it all.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Eliza Archer, “The Great Race.” First of all, I love the double implication of the title, referring to both the literal footrace, but also to the human race, which often sees itself as invincible. And then comes the opening line. What? A brontosaurus in a story about war and marathons? I knew this one was going to be different, and funny. Vivid descriptions, such as “huge purple tongues of fog,” enhanced the story, and I loved the rather tongue-in-cheek delivery, especially in lines like, “A stegosaur was willing, but there were fears he would forget the message by the time he arrived.” Just when I wondered if the author was going to tie the story back to the prompts at all, they did, moving from dinosaurs to hairless apes, and delivering that marvelous last line, “Death is what is chasing you.” Well done.
And now: taking the crown for her first time at Flash! Friday is
Oh, the poetic language of this story grabbed me from the start. I’m a sucker for the emotional punch rendered in rhythmic and/or poetic language, and this story knocked me over. The set up in threes, each part repeating and yet differentiating itself from the one that came before, worked. The echoing in the lines “Nightmares / A bullet / Cancer crosses the finish line first” was simply fantastic. The richness of the language throughout the story set it apart – such vivid imagery, such emotionally evocative turns of phrase, made me feel as if I were running along with these suffering souls. Such a sad tale, but wonderfully rendered. Well done, Tamara! Well done!
Congratulations, Tamara! Below is the breathlessly sparkly winner’s badge for your wall(s). Here also please find your winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:
One runs from fear, the monsters of his past slavering at his heels.
His father’s fingers press against his throat,
Anger distends his features, twisting, purpling, panting—
Daddy’s familiar face the scene of a monster.
Death from fear or flight to freedom? Nightmares cross the finish line first.
One runs from love, tears and kisses shrouded in but a memory
The taste of her lips haunts his dreams,
Shivers across the flesh of his arms.
Mea culpa, my Father. I have sinned in the arms of a married woman.
Death from vengeance or flight to freedom? A bullet crosses the finish line first.
One runs from death, the Reaper’s cold breath shimmering in the darkness behind.
The pain creeps into his lungs, pulsing, aching.
He inhales, and a knife slices down deep inside.
He coughs, wipes the blood that bubbles past his lips, speeds his pace.
Death from bleeding lungs or flight to freedom? Cancer crosses the finish line first.