Welcome to results day!!!! So glad you’re here. Thanks for taking the time to write & comment, and thank you for coming back to see whose names are inscribed in gold on the trophies this round. MWAH!
Quick VERY COOL note: judge apps are already coming in for the first panel of Year Three. You’ve still got some time, but not a whole lot, to apply too and join the AWESOMEST dragon team anywhere; check out the details here.
Final note: today it’s deep thanks and (sniff sniff!!!) goodbye to outgoing judge Betsy Streeter. Betsy, it’s been a privilege having you on the FF team this last quarter. Thank you for all your hard work and general wacky awesomeness. Can’t wait to read Silverwood for myself. Is it March yet???
Judge Betsy Streeter says: Thank you so much, Dragonness, for asking me to be a judge. There is nothing that improves your writing like doing a lot of reading, and Flash! Friday is like receiving a great learning experience on fast-forward each week. I’ve loved having the chance to share thoughts on the pieces, and to be really thoughtful about them out loud, and I hope it’s been helpful to get feedback in that way – everybody please keep writing!
Now for comments on this round: Something about this particular photo, and its vintage, and the notion of bankruptcy took many writers to similar places this week – both in terms of story and in terms of tone and dialogue/dialect. I haven’t seen a set of stories that were this convergent before!
Having said that, there seemed to be two forks in that road: Pushing the idea around until it became something new (a twist, a reference to a TV show, perhaps even aliens), or sticking with it as a pure expression of a time and place that really seems to resonate with people.
The stories that struck me grabbed onto a detail, or a moment, or a conversation, and held it until it yielded something that implied a larger story or situation – opening up a new world in the process.
David Borrowdale, “The Art of Keeping the Horse Between You and the Ground.” David took that idea of failure/falling and applied it to the sometimes precarious act of riding a horse, and beautifully conveyed how our efforts not to let our world fall apart can take the form of both literally and figuratively climbing into a different place.
Stuart Turnbull, “The Gift Horse.” This is a great example of a small exchange implying a large story. Like in many Westerns, family bonds hold even in difficult circumstances. But choices must be made, and families must try to look out for one another even when they are just offering a least-worst alternative. This is classic Western, and the writing carries it out: “This ol’ nag looks in worse state than the one that left you to flit back to her folks in Mobile.”
Matt L, “Untitled.” Many stories jumped into a particular tone and dialect, and this one did it particularly well. It reminded me of the speech at the beginning of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in which a small-time criminal’s many transgressions are listed out at length. The writer here really committed to the voice, and the content of the story supports it. Westerns have a certain craftiness and intelligence to them even when the characters seem to be just simple folk. I loved the use of squash.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Eric Martell, “Untitled.” This story is so authentic in the dialog, the tone, and the delivery. I love: “unless you squinted, you couldn’t see that horse anymore.” Also wonderful: “nowadays luck trumped breeding every day of the week and twice on Sunday.” This is a great meditation on the fact that social standing falls apart right along with the economy, and how that can tear apart a person’s dignity and sense of who they are.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Karl A. Russell, “Too Big to Fall.” This is a great example of taking a premise and pushing it farther and farther, drawing on known fairy tales and blending it with another narrative. Karl here tells a huge story in very little space, containing it all in one expression of the rage you know is just under the surface in hard times. And this phrase: “returned home to the shotgun and the pot.” It’s almost a poem.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Holly Geely, “Christmas Dinner.” I kept coming back to this one, such a small moment between two characters but conveying so much. The contrast between the invented and outlandish story and the real circumstances lets the reader feel a creeping desperation. No action takes place, but it is implied and that’s what creates the tension. I found myself really wanting that horse to still be outside come spring.
And now: for her very first time EVER, it’s Flash! Friday
This is another I kept coming back to. It beautifully conveys how grief and loneliness are made worse by the loss of the small but meaningful parts of one’s life, and how those parts are encapsulated in shared everyday objects. It took me right to my grandmother’s house. A life built over time, torn asunder, and uprooted into another home. Somehow it’s just not enough, and the narrator knows it never will be. The glass is unmoored.
Congratulations, Grace! Below is your super cool/hot stunning winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your very own, brand new, mega sparkly winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!
I watch birds now, their various wingspans, as I sip my coffee. Overpriced coffee from oversized mugs, brewed in coffeemakers costing more than my monthly wages when I was still a productive member of society.
That sounds ungrateful though, which I’m not or at least I shouldn’t be. My granddaughter has kindly taken me into her home. A home I never could have provided for Vera, but then times were different.
Her petite, gloved-white hands flapping around as she’d prattle on about some sale at the nursery. “Lilacs,” she’d said. She fancied gardening, and hated horses, but her hands remained petal soft even in the end as I held them between my own calloused monsters.
Milk-glass cups—we used to drink our coffee from—are kept on the top shelf of the hutch I built, collectibles now. We don’t drink out of them.
“Lilacs are in bloom.”
“Ah, yes! How are the birds today, Grandpa?”
“They don’t change.”