Welcome! TODAY’S THE LAST DAY!!!! Please consider applying as a FF judge for Year Three. Don’t be intimidated by the dragons; you don’t need a grammar degree or published novels under your belt to serve. Seriously. Don’t let our slick, polished contest :coughcough: throw you off. I need you, and we’re all family here (and you’ll have a judging buddy!). What I’m looking for: people to choose stories they love and chat about why they’re so good. Details here.
Speaking of judges, it’s time to bid a fond farewell to judge Phil Coltrane. I am so grateful to you for the time and effort you’ve dedicated to Flash! Friday. Thank you for your technical ideas, your insight, and all you’ve contributed. You’ve been simply awesome. And soon we’ll see your name back up on the dais, I’m quite sure!!!! Thank you, THANK YOU.
Judge Phil Coltrane says: For my last week in the judge’s seat, what metaphor could be more apt than being put on a train? It’s with sadness that I realize my time as a judge is ending — and not just because of the rumors that roast judge au jus will be served in the Dragon’s dining car.
I found judging to be intimidating, time-consuming, sometimes even frustrating — but also tremendously rewarding. I had to scrutinize every story more carefully, and think about what I liked about each one. In the end, I learned a lot about what makes a flash story great, and found plenty of real treasures among them.
But you’re not here for teary-eyed farewells. This week, you wrote about all kinds of treasures: treasures of gold, of diamond, metaphorical and metaphysical treasures. Not surprisingly given the train prompt, a lot of the stories dealt with sad departures, happy arrivals, or long journeys. It seems the ones that stood out were the ones that dealt with the human condition: examining how we deal with joy, or frustration, or grief.
Matt L., “The Path Leading to the Door to Hell is Filled With Happiness.” Matt wonderfully characterizes a couple who have been together for a long time: comfortable with each other despite cramped quarters, able to joke about a bad vacation, together through any extreme, and simply able to treasure each other’s company.
Bart Van Goethem, “The Bearer of Bad News.” The repetition of what seem to be routine announcements builds to catharsis for this main character. Though we know little about this character, and nothing about what finally set him off, the author’s presentation allows us to sympathize, and perhaps even celebrate the character’s new-found freedom.
Clive Newnham, “Cursed Chain.” Thievery, pursuit, and murder feature here, and the uneasy atmosphere is accentuated by the descriptions of the sounds of the train. The author builds suspense, then eases us into a false sense of security just before the dramatic climax, leaving us to wonder what will happen next.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Image Ronin, “The Return.” Throughout this story, the author emphasizes the isolation and gloomy outlook of the main character. In the beginning, “[t]he compartment was empty apart from Astrid, Grandfather, and the echoes of the others.” Later, she is alone in a crowd of “grey faces” and within “the bustle of tourists and commuters.”
In a twist, the treasure turns out to be her Grandfather: she is bearing him (presumably in an urn) to the edge of the sea, to fulfill her final promise to him. The author raises questions in our minds as we read the story, neatly explaining Astrid’s glum mindset in the end, as well as her focus on “the echoes of the others”.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Jennifer Rickets, aka Donnie Darko Girl, “Beautiful Potential.” A treasure hunter finds the potential for something more valuable than a “collection of knickknacks.” The main character begins the story driven by wanderlust, with “no regrets and no worries,” seeking only “new adventure.” By the end, we see a hint that he has finally found his “real treasure.”
This is not quite a love story, but is about the titular “beautiful potential” of falling in love. We never learn his name (nor hers), and the author’s straightforward language suggest that they are meant to represent anyone — that like this Everyman (and Everywoman), we too may find our own treasure at any time.
FIRST RUNNER UP
M.T. Decker, “The Treasure of Sierra’s Madre.” Treasures abound in this story of a woman returning home to carry out a sad duty. Reflecting on the childhood tales her mother told of “untold riches in the north country,” she finds a real treasure: relief from her sorrow. Opening and closing with beautiful descriptions of “silver, glowing gold” sunlight, the author also manages to tell a complete tale of treasure within the story itself, as well as reward the main character with an easing of her grief. Overall, the author allows us to witness a silent and very personal discovery.
And now: for the first time, it’s Flash! Friday
D. T. NOVA!!!
“The Greatest Treasure”
It opens with a legend: “everyone who takes this train finds a great treasure.”
Surprisingly, treasure-seeker Anna is not looking for the greatest treasure. She has already found — and lost — “the most perfect person in the world.” Now all she has left is to travel the rails, hoping to find someone greater still. The title promises us “the greatest treasure,” and this story hits all the marks. The friendly lunchtime banter between Anna and the chef is believable, and hints at a deeper backstory both for the train and its passenger. Anna’s story is heartbreakingly believable.
In a twist from most stories, the main character is not seeking treasure, nor does she find it in her story. Her treasure is in her past, and now she has only the distant hope of riding the rails, finding someone else to make her happy.
The author gives us all of this, from a simple compliment of the chef’s soup.
Congratulations, D.T.! Below is your totally awesome winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your very own, brand new, mega marvelous 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!
The Greatest Treasure
Anna smiled at the chef. “They say that everyone who takes this train finds a great treasure. Are they talking about your soup?”
“I’m flattered, though I know you’re hoping I say no.”
“Your soup is your soup; it is unchanged either way. To find a series of increasingly greater treasures and continue to be told that they are still not the treasure would be a treasure in itself. Don’t you agree?”
“So you don’t want to find the greatest treasure of all?”
“I already have. I wish I hadn’t.”
“I don’t understand.”
No one ever did. How could they, if they hadn’t met the most perfect person in the world for themselves? And then been rejected. “They say ignorance is bliss. That’s not quite true. What I say is this: you have to be ignorant of bliss to settle for mere happiness.” But Anna still looked for the one who could improve on perfection.