AWESOME AWESOME work, y’all. Despite the huge number of draggins traveling this past weekend (or who conked out early, not naming any names, A.J.), y’all still managed nearly five dozen spectacularly convicting (heh heh) tales of justice and/or vengeance and/or Napoleon. And what a riot those tales were. Beautiful, tragic, funny, terrifiying — a little like us, maybe, eh??
And speaking of beautiful, a special mention here for our own Voima Oy, who found inspiration in Phil Coltrane‘s flash fiction-style interview for his 5th win this past week, and wrote her own secret, gorgeous rendition just because. LOVE.
RING OF FIRE!!!! Since we ran late flinging out the #RingofFire badges for May & June, I’m just now about to update the Wall of Flame. Did you write for FF at least three times in May and/or June? Let me know asap to keep (or put!) your name on this stunning list. Details here!
Judging for us this round was Dragon Team Five, Holly Geely & Foy Iver. SO FUN having this new panel sifting through your glorious tales; can’t wait to get to know each team better as the next rounds unfold.
Before handing out tiaras, Holly & Foy say:
HG: Good morrow, fellow writers; you have moved me with your display of talent, creativity, and pun-mastery. I was hoping for a bit of silliness and was not disappointed. I am honoured to have this opportunity to present winners, and look forward to the next adventure.
FI: The inaugural Friday of a new format and look you all, dragony wings unruffled, laying gems at our feet! And is there something in the air? Death, annihilation, and mayhem must be on vacation with optimism and humor filling in; the body count was pleasantly low. While reading, I was swept along in swashbuckling tales of swapped identities, hilariously antithetical ghosts doomed to haunt the same grounds, brooding revenge fantasies–and some not so brooding! And each one laudable for its own traits. The stories standing here are those that demanded to be recognized, succulent, singular, and not soon forgotten.
Best Ballad Remix-Mashup: Dylyce P. Clarke, “Not With My Body You Don’t.” Reads like a remix-mash-up of Loreena McKennitt’s “Annachie Gordon” and “The Highwayman.”
HG: Clair’s letter reads like something out of its time period, a great use of language. You can feel her sorrow, and later, her anger. Her threat to her lover at the end is heartbreaking, at the same time that it’s cruel.
FI: Such a voice in this! Like a bulwark against the breakers, those first two lines clash (“It is my wedding night. My husband lies drunk on the bed.”), drowning us in Clair’s plight, prescribed by “parents and duty.” So far she’s sunk, that she sees her lover’s gift as an instrument of escape (“This silk can free me from…life”), and, in her jealous anguish, threatens the very man she longs for (“If you are silent then my death will unleash your downfall.”). Heavy at the close, we’re left despairing that they’ll be returned to that indigo night under the low moon.
HG: The chilling last line “Let me get you another drink…” ties together a story that started off with an “act of charity” and finishes with a murder. The title is appropriate, and sinister after you’ve read the rest.
FI: From the opening, we know not to trust that “expected humility” on William’s part, and the frustration with his success in sending his Lucy off to “Prison and the madhouse” mounts with every web spun. Each read-through presented new information and unanswered questions. What must he have done to provoke Lucy’s first attempt? In a delicious twist, it’s his own false charity that brings him down, thanks to the clever scheming of his wife and the weakness of a certain vicar. Lucy’s final words to former love are gripping, “Poor William, you look so thirsty. Let me get you another drink…”
HG: Not only did this story make me hungry for fresh-baked bread, it wowed me with the consistency of the metaphor. My favourite line: “And jealousy is the yeast to the fermentation of rumour.”
FI: Like Holly, I am in awe of this tale’s uniformity! Phrases like, “My baguettes the toast of France.” and “I was accused of using performance enhancing substances, as if my bread ever needed the addition of baking powder for the perfect rise.” kept me rolling (please, if you haven’t enjoyed this story yet, do so!). Behind all the impressive bread metaphors and tantalizing descriptions of croissants, the author gives us a well-rounded revenge tale, complete with the threat that “like a sourdough starter I bubble away out of sight and I promise you, I will rise again.”
HG: The three main characters are intriguing. The conflict of Man vs. Man applies because even the snail and butterfly are “people.” The snail has a valid argument at the end and I think he may have won the battle.
FI: A fantastic story should be more than it seems. “Resolution” is just that. What begins as the set up for an unusual “Three so-and-so’s walked into a bar” joke, builds into a worlds-deep philosophical study. The odd companions, man, butterfly, and snail, argue what gives purpose, worth, and meaning to life. Is it power “I could crush you…and I could end your life with simple salt”? Is it freedom “I am then the freest… for I, being created of fire, change from one state of being to another?” Or is it ordained by a higher being “I, like water, can take the shape of my container—the spiral—the very shape of creation itself. I am the potential for becoming, the very stuff over which God breathed in Genesis”? (Love the appearance of Fibonacci spiral!) At the end, we understand that God is part of His creation, the snail proclaiming, “You see, I AM.”
THIRD RUNNER UP
HG: This story takes the escaped convict character and gives it a charming twist. “My shackles are secure in her hands, my puppet’s strings taut and ready to leap with the first tug.” You might feel sorry for the man, if he hadn’t just been called “Mrs. McMuffins” (which is a spectacular name, by the way). “The outdoors beckons with manliness,” indeed. A creative tale that made me smile.
FI: With as much tension as launched its opening, “The Making of a Man” could’ve been set in an interrogation room. We sit and trembled as this mysterious jailor “narrows her eyes across the space,” and “recognize [our] sentence in their jade depths.” And then suddenly we’re sipping from “miniature teacups” and Mrs. McMuffins is not a Mrs. at all. The protagonist’s situation (and gender!) is cleverly disguised til the last. Though poor Mr. Johnson would’ve preferred to be out in the “manliness” of the outdoors, mowing and chopping, it takes a true man to sit and have “tepid water” tea with his imaginative daughter.
SECOND RUNNER UP
HG: This story is compelling as well as eerie. The most powerful line of the story, “That made her want him more,” sets the tone and drives the ending home.
FI: “The Gentle Sway” is a beautiful example of the power of flash fiction. Stunning imagery throughout – “the studs in the denim blue sky,” “her brown curls splitting the yellow,” “claw fingers of the trees picking at the sutures of her patched up heart”), carried me through each heart-rending paragraph. So much is told in quiet, “cigarette-stained words.” He tells her tales, true or not that she believes: “Innocent. Locked up. Too long. Lost faith.” She stays because she “could change him,” ignoring every “cherry red warning” nature whispers. It’s a sign of true talent that such a dark fiction could leave you feeling comforted, wrapped in warm arms as the forest “casts its fresh, green blanket over her final resting place.”
FIRST RUNNER UP
HG: This story had a fine twist on the “escaped convict” character. I could feel the poor man’s fear as he sipped on his drink. When his jailor was revealed, I agonized with him; thankfully the bartender was there to save him. The voice was superb and the bartender was a noble hero. (I also couldn’t help but have a small chuckle at the man’s expense.)
FI: As Holly said, “Jacopo’s Place” centered on a refreshingly original “convict”: a man trapped in an unhappy marriage and seeking refuge. Our observant narrator picks out all the signs of a fellow “guest of the state,” darting eyes and uneasy posture, and decides to let him tell his tale in his own time. Rather than ridicule the man as a “whipped dog” when his oppressor is revealed, Jacopo offers him an escape, reassuring him that “No one gets found in my place unless they want to be found.” The line instantly adds texture, leaving us to wonder how many others have sought safety in Jacopo’s Place.
And now: forgive the blubbering mess, but ohh darling draggins, please let the celebrations reverberate across the galaxies: it’s our long overdue, first-time
MARK A. KING!!!
“The Dance of the Origami Girl and Porcelain Boy“
HG: “Her dreams were crayon-colours.” What a gorgeous mental image that is, for someone as fond of crayons as I’ve always been. The implication of those colours is significant and unique. The two characters who are so different from one another, and yet who dream together…amazing. There is such depth here in so few words, such tender feelings and heartbreak. The final line is perfect and leaves you with hope as well as an underlying feeling of despair.
FI: From its unforgettable title to the prose-masked poetry dancing through its lines, “Origami Girl and Porcelain Boy” stole my heart on first reading. Its approach to both character and theme are brilliantly original. Rather than follow the trials of a traditional convict, it shows us two trapped souls from vastly different worlds: a boy living “his life in the smothering love of his parents,” and a girl surviving “in the folds of oppression.” And while many of the stories chose to paint portraits of revenge, this one chased after a “dream of impossible justice.” In their secret selves they crave a world where their “origami-porcelain children would be strong and independent, and loved,” escaping from that metaphorical prison the boy and girl have known from birth. For soul-searing prose and ingenuity, a worthy winner.
Congratulations, Mark! We’re all so jubilant and overwhelmed and giddy, we can barely contain ourselves. What a gorgeous story from a powerful and beloved writer. Please find here your brand new winner’s page (which has been waiting in the wings for some time now, knowing your day would come) and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please stand by for questions for Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story:
The Dance of the Origami Girl and Porcelain Boy
She lived her life in the folds of oppression.
He lived his life in the smothering love of his parents.
She once twirled in the sunlight. Once smiled. Her dreams were crayon-colours. Roughly sketched blueprints of respect, dignity, self-worth and a mythical thing called love.
He only left the house when they went with him. Mind that step, son. Have you taken your tablets? Button your coat. Don’t forget the emergency procedures.
She pursued her dreams and saw that glimmer of love in broken men; men that she would come to realise were beyond redemption.
He watched his parents die from the genetic disease that coursed through his veins and was left ill prepared to face the world alone.
She folded into the roles and shapes demanded of her. She was the beautiful dove, the delicate orchid, the fearsome dragon. Between roles, she could not turn back to herself—such a person did not exist.
He hid in the musty shadows of his house. Breathed the mould-spore mists. He didn’t clean the dust, for the dust was them. It was all he had left.
They dreamed. They dreamed of impossible justice.
In their dreams, they danced in the mirror-ball light of the moon. They touched with tenderness. Kissed with compassion. Their origami-porcelain children would be strong and independent, and feel loved.
Perhaps she would leave these men?
Perhaps he would leave this house?
And perhaps justice would be found in the dance of the Origami Girl and Porcelain Boy.