Welcome to Flash! Friday results day! As ever, there’s LOTS of stuff going on; I’m so eager to share the goodness, I can hardly get the words out (don’t worry; I’ll manage). First up: a reminder of what’s happening these next couple weeks:
* Nov 28 – Special guest judges (announced later today or tomorrow; you’re going to go nuts)
* Dec 5 – Flashversary!!!!! (No. Words. for how HUGE the prize is.)
* Dec 12 – Year Three starts with its exciting changes and our brand new judge panel. Speaking of which, let me introduce them! Lots more about them in the weeks ahead. Join me in welcoming:
Once you’ve stopped S C R E A M I N G, please move on with me to today’s results. We were marvelously privileged this round to be joined by the fine crew of the Liverpool-based writers’ group Poised Pen. Thanks specifically to Catherine Connolly & AJ Walker for sharing your time and keen writerly eyes! We love having you as part of our FF family, and it was a true honor to have you take a turn as judge. An honor for us and, I hope, not too torturous for you (though we did our best).
The judges from Poised Pen say: Well, what a weekend, folks. It is the first time Poised Pen have been given the pleasure and privilege of judging at Flash! Fiction Friday. One of the Poised Pen team – I won’t name him – had to drink for two days at a real ale festival to ready himself for the challenge. It was most interesting being on the other side for the week. It was noted how important the title was to the pieces – we will definitely take this on board for our own stories, next week at least. We would like to think that it may improve our entries in the future – here’s hoping anyway!
As the two judges were both Flash Dogs the dragon master turned puppy master for the weekend, together with the striking photo cue references to Nipper and HMV. We’re not sure whether it was the relatively constrained indoor photograph, but it was noticeable that fantasy was a lot less in evidence this week than usual – though it may have been the difficulty of fitting music, puppies and dragons into 150 words. In common with most weeks though the Flash! community inevitably delivered a lot of death – and some intriguing wind-up tech!
The judging was blind of course and when we finally saw the author’s names it transpired we hadn’t delivered a clean sweep of Flash Dogs, but we did crown a new winner – giving us a warm glow. So, without further ado… to the winners, the runners up and the mentions…congratulations all!
Karl Russell, “Spiritual Remix.” The clue to this one’s premise is in the title. This is a brilliant play structurally on the concept of the record played backwards and a mirror image story which produces a completely different version when set out in reverse. Very cleverly done!
Sarah Miles, “Slugs and Snails and Puppy Dogs Tails.” Here, imagery and language are put to great use in the “thundering” and “howling”, followed by the “arias of mourning”. There is a sense of the inevitable in the way in which Sayid ultimately joins the overwhelming “chorus”. Powerful and well observed.
Mark King, “Silver Song of the Lark.” There were nods aplenty to Liverpool – blatant but welcome. This story in particular made one of the judges (okay, Andy) laugh out loud. Loved seeing Hansen’s ‘you won’t win anything with kids’ comment. Thanks for making me laugh Mark – even if it did make me cry a little too at what we’ve lost.
Lastly, thanks to Rebekah the Puppy Master for trusting the Poised Pen team with the judging this week. It has been an absolute pressure. Or did we mean pleasure? Where’s me pint?
Sinéad O’Hart, “The Curtain Call.” This is a great example of a story utilising effective dialogue. The interplay between the couple draws us effortlessly into a relationship in which communication is somewhat less than it should be. We get a sense of an older, longstanding couple without any specific reference to age, as well as precisely what the husband’s viewpoint on “Oh, The Talent We’ve Got” may well be!
Betsy Streeter, “Hey, Jude.” Beatles reference in the title aside, this was a poignant example of a story incorporating music and death, something a number of the stories this week considered. Here, the key is in the mark made “on the world”, which is likened to a “scratch” or “pop” on a record but only fully becomes clear at the conclusion of the final sentence, making it particularly poignant. ** Note ** This song was No.1 when one of the judges was born – coincidence or some scary amount of research (aka cyber stalking?)?
Tinman, “The Food of Love.” We really enjoyed the original premise of this story, with The Frydermaus and its pervasive aromas, likened to both the “Bach Fugue through organ pipes” and a “fart through a bubble bath”! The wry, tongue-in-cheek tongue continues through Caruso’s signature dish, “O Sole Mio”, to the final inability to wind the oven sufficiently to “cook a whole turkey”. Really well observed!
Matt Lashley, “Comeuppance.” This is another great example of a story in which the importance of its title becomes clear once we have come to its conclusion. The hint that we will be privy to a tale of in which justice will be served becomes apparent only as the maid is hurrying away millions of bearer bonds richer from the “strong”, “weak” and “self-absorbed” family members. With very few words, we gain the impression the “scolded puppy” maid is in the right!
THIRD RUNNER UP
Craig Anderson, “Bark Box.” This is a brilliant piece in which voice is key. The sheer magnitude of the task in trying to teach the proverbial pack is emphasised in the way attempts result in them “grinning like idiots” and their propensity to “spin in circles, hypnotized”. The imagery tied to the “puppy” prompt is consistent throughout, from the inability to “walk on all fours” to the final determination to “discover who’s a good boy”. Added to which, the humorous tone throughout is spot on – particularly in the closing line. Thanks for this, Craig.
SECOND RUNNER UP
David Borrowdale, “Harmony for the Mind.” Not only is this a great story, which demonstrates a clear sense of the world which we, as reader, inhabit and uses the word prompt for the week of “puppy” to original effect, it also sets its premise up particularly cleverly through its title – something which becomes clear fully once we have finished reading. It is also a great example of an entry involving apparent research into epistemological theory and attention to detail in very few words. Added to that, a closing line which hits home in the overall context of the story to finish off! Very well done, David.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Tamara Shoemaker, “Thief.” Tamara’s story uses language to great effect. We begin with the accusatory “thief”, with the concluding paragraph aiding to emphasise the original accusation by bringing us as reader full circle. The sense of a need for justice is something which runs throughout linguistically, with references to “loathsome” and “bitter”, as well as “razor-edged” slaying, adding to the sense of hurt and betrayal. Here, “life” helps to highlight the importance of what we are dealing with, making the accusation all the more serious. Additional kudos to the author for effective use of the word “poised” in the very first paragraph too!
And now: for his very first time, we couldn’t be happier for Flash! Friday
This story sets its premise out from the title in. Right from the outset, the reader descends into the abyss the characters dwell within whilst they drink memories away. Original premise aside, the writer’s use of language is accomplished. Pockets “bulging” with coins bathed in anguish cause the protagonist to “crawl” to the bar, emphasising the sense of psychological weight from the first paragraph. The sense of despair and hopelessness continues via the “bones” displaying their “masks” only, devoid of real humanity, as we see what the bar occupants have been reduced to. Seemingly, the distilled memories they imbibe will not be the only things incapable of a return. Here, “echo” refers cleverly not only to the distilled products being served but the inference in respect of the drinkers themselves. There is a sense of struggle in the attempt to “stay afloat”, however hopeless it may ultimately prove. Finally, we reach the haunting conclusion and its “shadows”, with the reference to consumption highlighting the extent to which those who drink at the Abyss are eaten away, slowly but surely, by their singular desire. Beautifully done, Chris!
Congratulations, Chris! Below is your frothy winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your very own, brand new, super duper 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 jukebox desires coins bathed in anguish. My pocket is bulging with those. I feed the nostalgic gal then crawl to the bar.
Intoxicated bones with masks of sorrow lounge on decaying stools, a whimpering pack of discarded puppies pining for their master. Glasses are being fractured by aching hands. Marinated eyes plunge for deserted images floating in amber liquid. We drink memories at The Abyss. We splash our guts with the distilled echo of things that don’t come back.
Words are extinct here. Our mouths are preoccupied with swallowing fraudulent remedies. Our ears tuned solely to the paralyzing songs that tell our story with a folksy twang.
A kid in a pink Oxford is peeling the label off his beer with wounded talons. His first heartbreak, perhaps. I buy his next round. He nods. I want to tell him to stay afloat, but my coins have bartered a deal: A melody that tilts the bottle. Lyrics that consume shadows.