Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 35: WINNERS

FACT: did you know Sherlock Holmes never uttered the phrase, “Elementary, my dear Watson”? This is an ongoing source of disappointment to me, as I can quite hear him saying it. (And if he looks like this while doing so, that is between me and the BBC, thankyouverymuch.) He did, however, quite often say, “When you have eliminated the impossible, then whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” 

(Of course, now I also hear the Queen of Hearts reminding us that she always believes six impossible things before breakfast. Wonder what our dear Mr. Holmes would make of her?? #genremashup)

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Judging Sherlock this week (just how does one do that?! takes either great skill, great hubris, or the greatest of ignorance!) were the quick-witted (whew) captains of Dragon Team Six, Steph Ellis & Josh Bertetta. (Josh says he once believed seven impossible things before breakfast; Steph says she ate every last one.) Steph starts us off with a round of thanks:  

My second time already sharing judging honours with Josh and so far – touch wood – it has all been amazingly civilised; we have not needed to haggle or make major trade-offs in choices, there has been no bickering or name-calling or bribes! {Editor’s Note: AND WHY NOT, PRAY TELL?!} And this week in particular we seemed to share a psychic link across the pond with the same stories striking the same notes. 

At this point I would also like to thank Deb Foy and my daughter Bethan for providing us the stories stripped of all identification.

Thank you to everyone who chose to send in their stories this week based on elements from The Hound of the Baskervilles.  We had dialect hammed-up to the hilt, glorious (or gloriously terrible) puns, villains, melodrama and poetry; what more could you ask for?  Ah, that’s elementary, my dear Watson.  You want the results.  Well, here they be …

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Master of Language: Catherine Connolly, “Lord and His Lady.” 

SE: Absolutely stunning use of language in this story; a gorgeous poetry that recalls the lyrical poems of the early Anglo-Saxons (don’t just read Beowolf, read The Wanderer, I urge you).  The use of alliteration and the imagery evoked is remarkable: the contract between Lord and Lady written between ‘marrow margins’, the description of her as a devouring being ‘Lady savours sucking Lord’s soul from its moorings’, taking everything from him until he has no more to give – ‘All things must end’.  I could read stories written in this manner all day.

JB: A work of mythopoesis, something from behind the veil, from within the white spaces between the black words, much like All Hallows itself when the veil between this world is at its thinnest, and something (in the case of this story) much more sinister pokes its head through.

Master Punnery: MT DeckerThe English Detective.” 

SE: When I saw the first pun, I thought uh-oh, spelling error, then I saw the second, and I thought ‘Don’t they know how to use a dictionary, this is Flash! Friday!  Standards are slipping’.  {Editor’s Note: :faints:} And then my brain caught up with what was on the paper and I realised what was going on.  Favourites include ‘Lord Henry stood a loan’, the ‘up keep’ being ‘tall rather than broad’, ‘nomads land’ and that classic ‘defenderer of the realm’.  The final denouement was perfect it was ‘his grammar, after all … he axed for it’.  Wonderful.

JB: I shook my head at the first of several “misspellings,” thinking to myself, “oh, that’s too bad,” because I really liked the story. Then, with that last sentence, I found myself smiling and nodding my head…thinking “way to go!”

 

Master of Groanery: Geoff Holme, “Der Hund von Bach-Steuville.” 

SE: Misunderstandings, jokes and a Germanic play on names with Ohm and Wartzern had me chuckling all the way through.  Loved in particular:  ‘a message attached to the sole of his boot ‘Ah! A footnote’. ‘Vhat has four legs und flies … Two pairs of trousers’.  I am envious of anyone who can come up with this level of humour.  Great fun.

JB: Of all of this week’s stories, I must say that I never laughed as much as I laughed when I read “Der Hund” and after reading so many gut-wrenching stories, to have a little reprieve from so much emotion, this was a welcome break.

Master of Whisky: Eliza Archer, “Entailed.”

SE: I must confess that the first thing that drew me to this story was that classic sentence ‘There were no shrubberies’.  Why?  Because shrubberies are the desire of the Knights who say Nee from Monty Python’s Holy Grail, a film also filled with monks mortifying themselves.  And from then on I was reading the piece as if it were one of the parodies that they themselves would create.  This fitted so well, that regardless of the author’s intention, this was how I interpreted it. 

JB: An almost Lovecrafting setting hovers over this piece of family tradition, desire, and an unspoken arrogance—that what happened in the past won’t happen to me.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Craig Anderson, Clue-Less.”

SE: Poor Mrs Jenkins, sitting there quite innocently to find out she was murdered! Although I must say she took the news rather well (very British reaction).  It was playing out in black-and-white in my head.  And bringing in that classic boardgame Cluedo, ‘Colonel Mustard, in the library, with a candlestick’ was a nice touch to a gently humourous story.

JB: In the kitchen the author pulls the rug out from under me, killing me in turn with his/her computer, with his/her deft skills of telling a story that sucks me in only to turn it all upside-down in the end. I’ll never look at that board game the same again.

Marie McKay, “The Great Detective.” 

SE: A story told from the viewpoint of the victim, describing his imprisonment and how the detective’s deductions are mistakes that will not solve the crime.  The victim has also told us where the answer lies, he has written ‘his identity on the page of me’.  But because the detective is digging in the wrong place, spurred on by the doctor, he will never know the truth.  The last line tells us everything, how ‘The doctor nods for he is happy to keep the great detective in the dark’ because the doctor is the murderer.  The title of the story in this case is ironic.

JB: Another great story where, in a way, the body is text and where those who think they know remain blind, or in this case deaf, seeking, as they do, the truth in the facts and what is visible.

Joidianne4eva, “No Angels.”

SE: A family of standing, a child with a dark secret.  She is sick and is not allowed to play with the servants because they are below her station but the child is not lonely ‘after all I have mother and she loves me so.’  A touch of the Psychos here! Then there is father whose love is ‘heavy and it hurt’, was this a hint at abuse? It certainly sounds as though the family held dark secrets.  Particularly that sentence ‘I hope he’s not like that nasty priest who touched my skin and made it burn. His words made my ears hurt as well’.  This is the devil’s work.

JB: Superiority and inferiority, prejudice, control and other such evils prevail and I want to know why lies underneath—I want to know the what, they why, and the how, but the author leaves me wondering, allowing me to fill in such questions with my own imagination. Chilling.

 

THIRD RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “Numbers.”

SE: A visceral response to “Numbers.” Reading it, I could feel my stomach contract and my muscles tighten. While I like stories with those ending twists, at times, like this, I knew what the story was about with that first line. And that was the hook. We’ve all heard the stories, the accounts, the histories. We know the horror. Sometimes, it’s almost too much too bear; sometimes it’s just another content of the intellect: yes, I know it happened—and it was horrible. And while nothing I will ever read will enable me to truly understand, if the purpose literature is to make us feel—Numbers, whether I like the feelings (which is beside the point) does just that.

JB: ‘They don’t have names, only numbers.’ You know immediately this is a story of the Holocaust even before it mentions chimneystacks and gas.  And you know who it is about as he searches for subjects amongst the elderly, the unfit, children, looking for twins in particular on which to experiment – Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death.  The man may have escaped the trials and justrice brought to others but he has found he can never escape his crimes.  His dreams are haunted by those he destroyed, they turn his own instruments of torture against him; Mengele has become a number, a fitting reversal.  Excellent reminder of man’s inhumanity to man.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Foy S. Iver, “In the Shadow-Room” 

SE: Such a chilling opening to this story, the room cold and filled with shadow and ‘The stranger has a razor-knife twirling in his fingers because Mommy hasn’t told him yet dark.’  Add a child’s voice to the mix and immediately the creepy atmosphere is ratcheted up a notch.  The child’s reflections on noise, the ‘edges and volume’ of the kids at school and how the man touches his ‘arm-skin’ which screams ‘DON’T TOUCH ME’, indicates the child may be autistic.  Even worse, he notes his mother’s ‘eyes are half-moons and tilted, like in cartoons when it’s dark and there’s a monster next to you’, does he sense something? Then there is the ‘retired’ neuro-surgeon who is dismissive of morality as it ‘lags behind science’ – what is it he is about to do, and is it moral?  A story to make your skin crawl.

JB: First, the images and language are stunning: I can see the short develop cinematically, though in this case, the young child’s thoughts would not be verbalized—all I would hear are the parents and the doctor talking, willing to go the most extreme measures to “fix” their child’s “problem.” But this, of course is no film, and we are privy to the inner workings of a child who, unable to verbalize his pain and suffering, lets his skin do the talking…something I am all too familiar with.

FIRST RUNNER UP

David Parkland, “Dog.” 

SE: Touching picture of that great man, Winston Churchill, in his twilight years with his faithful hound at his side (or in his head).  Known for his love of animals and the dogs he owned over the years, this particular dog could easily be the spirit of those gone before or it could be the ‘black dog’ of depression from which Winston suffered particularly in later life.  Whether the dog is depression or the ghost of past pets, Winston is perfectly accepting of him and comfortable in his company.  And through it all, with time passing very slowly, the clock ‘Marking time like dripping eaves’, they just sit together in companionable silence and ‘listen to the clock’ marking the end of Winston’s days.  An evocative sense of time and place and a life done.

JB: Is the dog real or not? What is real? Does it matter if the dog is “real” or not? I don’t think so, for what is real, it seems to me hear, is subjective—what is real is what we experience, whether or not others experience the same. Much as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too is reality. What makes this story work for me particularly is the lack of quotes, even though there is “dialogue.” The author’s deft choice of leaving the quotes out highlights these very issues in quite a thought-provoking piece.

And now: for her FOURTH win (but first since April), it’s the exceedingly fabulous

DRAGON WINNER

NANCY CHENIER!!!

for

Causality

SE: Loved the take on the superstition theme—superstitions most of us have probably heard and probably laugh at. Yet this is no laughing matter. The author is able to generate a real sympathy with his/her main character, Daniel, for whom life just keeps getting worse—how life events can have the most horrendous domino effects–even when, as we learn, the initial event wasn’t “supposed” to have happened in the first place. But then again, things happen as we happen and what should have or should not have happened, don’t really matter anyway, no do they? They happened and much like Daniel, we may curse others for our own fates.

JB: A story that starts with a tragic accident and from then on the boy’s life spirals downwards, each step triggered by an apparent superstition.  Seven years of bad luck because of the car mirror, a thirteenth birthday on which his present of a black cat was killed, walking under a ladder during a burglary causes his capture.  None of this is his fault, if something could go wrong, it did go wrong.  And then the worst thing of all, he discovers that his dad – although he claimed he was trying to help him – was actually responsible for the event that led to resulting misery in his life, by saying he shouldn’t have been in the car his father has admitted to being responsible for his mother’s murder.  Scaffolding the story with the superstitious ‘If …’ was a clever method of showing cause and effect, a chain reaction if you like.  But in the end, none of this was down to an ‘If’, it was all down to a someone.  And then the youth, whose life has always appeared to have been beyond his own control, now takes command.  He does not turn his back on superstition (although he destroys the useless four-leaf clovers), but instead turns to one form, voodoo, which he can control.  A dark revenge indeed.

Congratulations, dear Nancy, Mother of Squidlets! Please find here your updated winner’s page; your winning tale will be found there as well as over on the winners’ wall. And you must keep a wary eye on your inbox for interview questions for Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature–your FOURTH! And now, making it utterly impossible for it to go unread (because today is all about the impossible, see?) here’s your winning story:

Causality

If you break a mirror…

I was seven when the car crash happened. I remember my splintered reflection in the rearview mirror. Mom died on the way to the hospital. “The car wouldn’t stop,” she rasped through the oxygen mask. I spent the next seven years bouncing around foster homes.

If a black cat crosses your path…

For my thirteenth birthday, a gift-wrapped box addressed to me appeared on the doorstep. From under the lid, a charcoal face with green eyes mewed at me. My first real present in six years.

Two months, I kept her hidden in the shed. When Ben discovered her, he tossed her into the neighbor’s swimming pool and head-locked me until the splashing stopped.
That night I hit Ben’s sleeping head with a baseball bat. Welcome to juvie.

If you walk under a ladder…

At eighteen, I got busted on a B&E. The house was being remodeled. Even with a four-leaf clover in each shoe, I should’ve been more leery around scaffolding. Three hundred pounds of heroic security guard dropped right on my head.

Then, I got a letter in prison:

Dear Daniel,
We musta just missed each other.
Things never worked out between me and your mom, but I made a vow to help you out. I thought a pet might be a catalyst (get it?) to turn things around. Sorry it didn’t work out.
Love Dad
PS. You weren’t supposed to be in the car.

I folded the letter along its creases, trashed the clovers, and started work on a voodoo doll.

FFwinner-Web

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