Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 44

It is a truth universally acknowledged that…

….you knew this day was coming. There was no way this day wasn’t coming, much as you may have hoped it would(n’t?) — and here ’tis. But first, a few encouraging words from our sponsor:

A girl likes to be crossed a little in love now and then. It is something to think of, and it gives her a sort of distinction among her companions.

(Before you start throwing things, remember Mr. Bennet’s the one who said that, right before he advised Lizzie to go after Mr. Wickham as he’d be certain to jilt her in style.

–But first, a quick thanks again to everybody who came out for the second episode of #Pyro. That thing is SO. MUCH. FUN. Love all your thoughtful critiques and suggestions. A totally fun read, both the story & those helpful, critical comments. Thank you!!! Yet another tale coming up tomorrow. Please be sure to send your story in if you’d like a go!! Email it via here with a note that it’s for #Pyro.

For those who missed these earlier, I’ll skim over the rest of the announcement-type stuff:

(1) The current judges are close to finishing their tours of duty (LOVE Y’ALL SO MUCH!!!! MWAH!); we’ll open up judge apps for the next round in a couple of weeks. LOVE to have you join us!! Details here.

(2) Flashversary’s coming up Dec 11!!!!! (What do you mean, FF is about to start its FOURTH year?! somebody lend me a hand with these here whiskers, please.) As one of the grand prizes, we would love to give away a trove of books written by y’all. If you’re willing to donate a book (or two) to the FF cause, please let me know asap here. Thank you!  

♦♦♦♦♦

DC2Let me introduce today’s judges by saying that they had no control over the selection of today’s novel inspiration, and given that both are speculative fiction folks, well, I’m hoping they’ll still be speaking to me come Monday. I’m also hoping at least some of you will find a way to twist your stories in a speculative direction, heh heh. {Lizzie and Mr. Darcy as dragons, anyone, hmmm???} In any event, it’s Dragon Team Seven on this week’s dance card, which means the gentlemanly IfeOluwa Nihinlola and Lady Nancy Chenier, of course, bless their hearts.        

          ♦♦♦♦♦

Awards Ceremony: Results will post Monday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Thursdays.  

* Today’s required word count:  200 words +/- 25 (175 – 225 words, not counting title/byline)

How to enterPost your story here in the comments. Be sure to include your word count (min 175, max 225 words, excluding title/byline), the two story elements you based your story on, and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new or forgetful, be sure to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Monday.

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Thursday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity.

AND HERE IS YOUR NOVEL PROMPT:

Bringing the class to classic, this week it’s all about one of literature’s most celebrated novels, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. If you’ve not read this book, don’t be prejudiced by thinking P&P a simple, superficial romance: Austen’s tale hands us a cleverly biting censure of wealth and the sanctimonious strictures of societal class, even while warmly extolling the value of family, respect, and love. {Interesting historical note: I have it on good authority that though Austen died in 1817, she wrote the part of Mr. Darcy for a dashing young man born in 1960.}  

Story elements (base your story on any TWO of these elements; be sure to tell us which two you chose. Reminder: please remember the Flash! Friday guidelines with regard to content; and remember please do not use copyrighted characters). 

* Conflict: man v man (not gender specific); man v society
Character (choose at least one): a mother desperate to marry off her daughter(s); a handsome, slightly snobbish landowner; a witty young lady; a cad; an immature flirt; a cynical patriarch; a gorgeous optimist; an overbearing, pompous aunt.
Theme (choose one): love, family, marriage, class divisions, superficiality of wealth
Setting (choose one): a ballroom, a sitting room, a garden 

OPTIONAL PHOTO PROMPT (for inspiration only; it is NOT REQUIRED for your story):

Fan girl. CC2.0 photo by Jamelah E.

Fan girl. CC2.0 photo by Jamelah E.

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205 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 44

  1. Tamara Shoemaker
    @TamaraShoemaker
    Word Count: 214
    Story Elements: Conflict (man v. man)/Theme: Love

    Competition

    It sits between us, the frailty of our future, the placidity of our past.

    “How long?” His knuckles are white where they grip his skin; his upper arms cross tightly over his chest, defending himself from the inevitable words I will hurl at him.

    “Since before.”

    “Before… us?”

    I nod, a slight inclination of my head that hardly counts as movement.

    He inhales a sharp breath, pain slicing his expression.

    “Why?”

    I shrug.

    “What does he have that I don’t have?”

    This might be a long night. I open my mouth to answer, but he interrupts me.

    “I mean, I’ve always provided for you, haven’t I? We have food on the table, gas in the car, I bring home a paycheck every two weeks. What more do I need to do to win you back?”

    I approach him, laying my fingers lightly on his arm, squeezing gently. The poor man, it’s not his fault. He doesn’t understand; there is no competition. “Sorry, love,” I whisper, picking up the mug, tracing my fingernail over the I heart Mr. Darcy. “There’s nothing you can do.”

    I turn my back on my husband’s cold glare and wrap my fingers around the warm acceptance of my past, present, and future.

  2. Characters: a mother desperate to marry off her daughter(s); a cad.
    Theme: marriage.
    225 rascals

    Brides and Scalawags

    “Mr. Pinkus, do enter, please.”

    The mistress of the house, Mrs Candelabra Menkins, had vanquished her fair share of meals.

    My cousin, Perlie Pinkus, had encountered Mrs Menkens at the Fopshire Sow Races some weeks earlier. They had formed a close compact, as sow farmers and gamblers notoriously will. Candelabra had noted that her daughter, Coddlelina, possessed a substantial dowry left by Coulthard Menkens, Coddie’s late father.

    Perlie ventured to enquire whether Coddie was betrothed.

    Candelabra shook her head vigorously, collapsed into tears and lamented, “Oh, the wretched girl has a derth of social graces. Coulthard spoiled her miserably, kept her child-like. They were inseparable from the day of her birth.”

    Candelabra went on to inform that since Coulthard’s untimely expiration, which apparently involved an ill-advised, inebriated midnight adventure in the immense Menken family pigpen, though the exact event was somewhat muddied, Coddlelina has been inconsolable.

    “Roger, cousin,” Perlie had whispered in my good ear as we idled in each other’s arms in the Pinkus family orchard, “She’s ripe for your plucking, is our Miss Menkins.”

    Thus, once Perlie had written Candelabra that her handsome cousin, Roger, was desperately anxious, upon hearing of Coddlelina’s virtues and grief-stricken ways, to dash to her side and alleviate her desolation, the wedding was pure formality.

    I would swell my fortune both in Coddlelina’s cradle and in pork futures.

  3. The 4 Of Us
    185 words
    @elaine173marie
    Love/ Women versus Society/ (an attempt at) witty young ladies

    We decided to do this together. You’re a week ahead, of course, but I’m far bigger!
    The hospital staff look at my twin belly. Birthing partners.
    They don’t know what to make of it.
    ‘It’ll be hard work this way,’ says one, sidestepping their real issue.
    ‘Many wombs make light work,’ you say, and I have to look away!

    ‘One each’ is another’s small talk.
    ‘The modern Solomon for thoroughly modern mothers,’ I say (only to you). And you love it.

    They assumed we’d both be home birth mothers. You said, ‘Stuff that’ (loudly). ‘I’ll be doped up to the eyeballs.’
    I said I’d always liked the idea of a home birth.
    ‘You’re so bloody brave,’ you said. (I’m not. I hate hospitals.)

    Our baby pushes its way through you to us. It’s instinct that makes you rest your sweaty forehead just below my popping navel, on my humongous beautiful, lived-in belly,
    ‘It’ll be your turn soon. Mum loves you,’ you whisper, and our baby kicks with expectation inside of me.

    And I love you for that. And I love you.

  4. Dangerous Conversations

    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)
    221 words
    Love, ballroom and a characters

    Anyone who was anyone was there. It was the social event of the year where associations were formed, shy kisses exchanged and engagements announced. Where a man needed to be very careful with his hands or he could find himself married within the month. The excitement in the ballroom was elastic with twanging heartstrings.

    The band struck up a merry tune. Unfortunately the string ensemble had been replaced by the local colliery brass band due to an outbreak of violinists elbow. A medley of Herman’s Hermits greatest hits was not what they were used to but with a rousing ‘Hey wha didi, didi do didi do’ they all took to the floor.

    Felicity found herself in the strong arms of the handsome but stern Mr Grimdine. Her mind was a flutter as despite the deafening, base boom of the euphonium Mr Grimedine seemed determined to speak with her.

    ‘Where did you get that mouldy old dress?

    Felicity fluttered her eyelashes. ‘Why Franchester, sir.’

    ‘And that’s such a frightful hat.’

    ‘Oh, sir!’

    ‘I don’t want to dance with you ever again.’

    The dance over Felicity skipped back to Ma ma.

    ‘Well?’

    ‘I think we may very soon be engaged. He asked where I’d got such wonderful dress and delightful hat. He then said he wanted to dance with me again and again!’

  5. @AvLaidlaw
    215 Words
    Character – Overbearing, pompous aunt
    Setting – Garden

    The Fairy Feller’s Maiden Aunt

    During those last amber afternoons of the holidays, I lazed in the garden and watched the bees nuzzle against the anemones.

    “Freddie, you need more wildflowers,” Aunt Flora said. “These are so very – “ she wrinkled her nose as if summoning all her indignation for the next word “ – human.”

    She wore a broad-brimmed hat with paper roses around the crown and one of those dresses with the bum sticking out, the kind you only see in photographs from the idyllic days before the First World War. The fairy side of my family are long lived, and their fashions change slowly.

    “I am human.”

    “Only a little.”

    “Half.”

    She pinched the anemone petals between her sharp fingertips. “So large and so very pink. Like a bawling baby. How can live like this? The noise and the stink?”

    It’s true humans do have an acrid aroma, reminiscent of a fox, but I wouldn’t admit that to my aunt. Whether magical or mundane, there are some things you must tolerate even during the holidays. Family is one of them.

    “Come back to The Court. You’ll be a prince among your own kind.”

    Because the petals are beginning to crinkle and brown. Because winter is coming and the summer magic is fading.

    Because childhood is over.

  6. I’ve now changed so much that I’d like this to be my second entry, please, if the first ‘The Dance’ could be deleted? Sorry again.

    The Dance
    Ballroom/ immature flirt
    (198 words)
    @elaine173marie

    ‘Not the night, Lass!’ said her father. But Flora paid no heed.
    She birled, skirts whipping, feet snapping to the fiddler’s tune. They formed their lines, again. She was across from, Gregor, the doctor’s son, this time. She had made his face burn crimson ever since they were bairns. His hands were hot and moist, like her previous dance partners’ had been. Flora was barely able to grip them as he spun her round. But this evening, she could have danced steady upon a whirligig!

    Casting partners, once more, the beat quickened. Opposite The Stranger, it was her turn to flush. She’d picked this Six deliberately. She’d entranced its young, male participants, and infuriated its women. But now she was face to face with the only man in the room.
    Her furious footwork shook the floor. Flora’s feet possessed, she scuffed and tapped a call to him. The stranger answered, held strong her waist as a demented skirl of pipes filled the large room.
    Outdone, mesmerized, the other dancers stilled and sent up whoops of mirth that might have roused the dead clans.

    Silent. Flora’s Dad stood ashen as he watched how deftly the devil disguised his cloven foot.

    (NB. bairn-  a Scottish word for child.)

  7. @fs_iver
    WC: 190
    Characters: A mother desperate to marry her daughters; a cynical patriarch
    Theme: man v society

    One Man’s Vision of the Future

    “Mina, let me tell you how the world ends. How our race runs to self-extinction.

    “Already and almost imperceptibly, societal order crumbles around the edges. I’ve seen it in the workplace, now in our government, next to go will be the family unit. Once they’ve taken that from us…chaos. Your kind will be 1 million to our one.

    “Oh, they’ll realize their error but by then it will be too late. A mother will poison her neighbors children so her daughters can claim the nearest male. There will be no giving in marriage, only desperation. No wedding vows, only demands for procreation.

    “And once they’ve winnowed us down, once we are but one, that last man will flee. He’ll remain hidden in the mountains, away from roving hands and rebellious hearts. In his sanctuary he will be alone but dominion, at least, will be his; the beasts will obey him, fear him.

    “And the mother’s cry for her uncoupled offspring will be the last to split the sky.”

    “Grandpa, don’t be so dramatic!”

    Amina pushes her fingers through black, chopped hair.

    “It’s a pixie cut not a revolution.”

  8. Name: dazmb
    Words: 225
    Elements: Cynical father / marrying off mother / ballroom

    Title: Either a Caesar or nothing

    Every savage can dance
    At Netherfield, the ballet of chestnuts was over.

    Cesar mingled with the guests, bishops and courtesans, all nakedly strewn across the floor, sated, distributing prizes to those whom their father had judged to be the most virile.

    Rodrigo took Lucrezia aside. “I trust you are happy with your match, sweet daughter?”

    Not disposed to display ill-humour, or acknowledge the reddening stare of Cesare, she smiled quickly, “Of course, Papa”.

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
    “But, mama” Lucrezia bitterly exclaimed, “Signor Sforza is unremarkable in every aspect. His looks are insignificant. And he’s Italian.”

    Vanozza scolded her daughter. “Such pride, such prejudice! Consider his family’s wealth and power! You will marry him for your father’s, for all our sakes!”

    We do not suffer by accident.
    The morning of the wedding. Cesar could bear it no more.

    “In vain I have struggled. It will not do…”

    Lucrezia kissed her brother passionately.

    Taking his hand to her breast, whispering “Of course it won’t” she produced from her decollage a small vial of liquid.

    ‘The king of poisons”, she smiled mischievously.

    Cesar laughed “Sweet sister, allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you”.

    And together they lived a full, if not legally married, life.

  9. @bex_spence
    194 words
    love, ballroom

    Falling

    The glass globe shimmered in his hands. Specks of gold dancing in the unknown. A faint echo of music came from within. Lifting it up to his ear, pressing the cold glass to his skin Thomas was electric. His skin tingled, butterflies turned.

    He peered through the glass, past the outer stone of the castle, in through the window, his eyes seeing what was beyond. Inside a glorious ballroom, chandeliers glimmering, laughter echoing, people dancing.

    Her blue dress caught his eye, turning in a kaleidoscope, spinning through the room. His heart pounded, his lips dry. He held tighter to the globe, pulled it close to his face. Within she stopped, looked out of the castle window, saw the stars sparkling, the night alive.

    She reached out her arm to touch something she could not see. The floor beneath her fell, lunging forwards, she gripped onto her dance partner, awash with confusion.

    Thomas had fumbled, his friends were approaching. Dropping the globe behind his back he stepped away.

    Later he returned, searched for the girl, but the globe was as it had been. A pretty castle, that was all. He’d fallen and she was gone.

  10. For the Love of The Rose
    213 words
    @laurenegreene

    Character: Witty young woman
    Setting: garden
    Theme: love (beginnings of at least)

    The dress billowed up as I plopped myself on to the garden’s bench. A sigh issued from my mouth, only intended for my ears.

    “I’d say it’s not that dreadful is it?”

    I stood in alarm looking around for the mystery voice. I spotted a young dark-haired gentleman crouched by the corner wall. He’d plucked a rose and held it out to me. Instead of reveling in his chivalrousness I scoffed.

    “A thousand thorns, but only one prick,” I said.

    He examined his hands for blood, not catching on. I sulked back to my spot on the marble bench, misunderstood as usual.

    He took a seat next to me without being asked and immediately fell into a sneezing attack.

    I reached into my bosom and handed him my monogrammed handkerchief, wet with the salty sweat of my skin.

    “Thank you.” His words murmured through a stuffed up nose. “I’m allergic to flowers, but I saw you escaping and had to follow.”

    “A plot hatched.”

    “You’re not like the other ladies.”

    “Indeed not.”

    “It’s refreshing.” A sneezing attack again cut the conversation short.

    “Shall we take a walk outside of the garden?” I asked.

    He took my arm. Maybe I’d gotten it backwards: there were a thousand pricks, but only one thorn could stick.

  11. Tradition
    @hollygeely
    225 words
    Elements: setting – garden, theme – class divisions, maybe even a little theme – love

    “How do you know she’d say no?” Amanda asked.

    Leah watched Janet walk among the marigolds. She picked one and tucked it behind her ear.

    “She’s off-limits.”

    “Why? Do her parents hate you or something?”

    “No. Why do you care?”

    “Friends are supposed to ask about this stuff,” Amanda said. “I saw it on TV.”

    “I can’t ask Janet on a date. You don’t understand ‘cause you’re new here. Every fifth grader knows that people from Mr. Benson’s class, like us, can’t socialize with people from Mrs. Middletrip’s class.”

    Amanda made a “this school is stupid” face.

    “Mrs. Middletrip teaches the smart kids. Mr. Benson teaches the ones who grow up to work at McDonald’s.”

    “Some smart people work at McDonald’s! I’m gonna do what I want with my life. I don’t care who my teacher is,” Amanda said.

    Janet had moved on to the rose bush and used a pair of scissors from her backpack to cut one. The teachers wouldn’t like that if she got caught. She was such a rebel.

    “Go on. Take a chance,” Amanda said, and she gave a mighty shove.

    Leah landed Janet’s feet. She was mortified.

    “This is for you,” Janet said, and she offered the rose.

    “Told you!” Amanda said.

    “Want to be my girlfriend?” Leah asked.

    “Okay.”

    And just like that, they defied decades of tradition.

  12. First Impressions
    Margaret Locke
    margaretlocke.com or @Margaret_Locke
    223 words

    Conflict: Man vs Man
    Character: A cad, a witty young lady
    Theme: Love

    “You’re one of those, aren’t you?”

    The sneer in his voice was nearly palpable. She looked up from the book nestled in her hands. Close-fitting shirt. Chiseled jaw. Eyes radiating . . . something. Eyes an entirely too-alluring shade of blue. “One of what?”

    “Austen fans. Jane-ites.” His lips flattened.

    She bristled, her own eyes narrowing.

    “Always expecting some fop,” the man went on, “to come prancing out of disgusting lake water, shirt plastered against his pecs.”

    She snorted. “As if you’re much better? Wanting every woman to be Pamela Anderson in her Baywatch days, our chests heaving at the mere thought of you?”

    A wicked dimple creased his cheek. “Wet T-shirts do suit her.”

    She snorted. Jerk.

    He swung into the seat beside her, lacing an arm over her shoulders. “I prefer brunettes anyway, you know,” he whispered against her hair.

    She reached up and ran her fingers over his familiar cheek. “Happy Anniversary, babe.”

    “Back ‘atcha.” Brushing his lips against hers, he murmured, “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.

    Grinning, she poked him in the side. “Remember our first impressions of each other, all those years ago?”

    “Who could forget?” He gestured toward the book. “You’re my Elizabeth.”

    “And you, my Darcy.”

    “Sans cravat, of course.”

    An eyebrow arched up. “Well, we can always fix that . . .”

  13. @Viking_Ma
    (220)
    Pompous aunt
    Garden

    Potted Meats are Not My Preferred

    ‘Lemonade, my dear. And don’t overfill.’
    Ethel fanned herself as a bee ventured perilously close.
    ‘The insects in this garden are a disgrace. They should be cleared before a picnic, everybody knows that.’ She shook her head. ‘What an extraordinary disappointment.’

    ‘So, anyway, dear Aunt…’’

    ‘This lemonade is warm! I couldn’t credit it. One must have a cool drink on a warm day, and vice-the-versa on a cool. I suppose you’d serve me cold coffee in winter!’

    ‘Oh, Aunt, please, I would like to tell you…’

    ‘Would you pass me a sandwich, my dear? Potted meats are not my preferred, of course, but seeing as we are roughing it today, I will brave the wilds! You cannot say that I am unadventurous.’

    ‘Aunt Ethel, I would never say that…’
    ‘I will insist on a serviette, though child. And I must comment, your hair is looking rather unkempt, although I suppose that it is this pesky wind which ruffles us so. Not an ideal place to eat, here in the middle of your lawns.’

    ‘If you would only SHUT UP for one second I could tell you that I have been approached by a famous director of Hollywood, America and he is desperate that I star in his next film. So this is goodbye, Aunt, you insufferable old bat. Good bye!’

  14. @AvLaidlaw
    225 Words
    Conflict – Man vs Woman
    Theme – Love

    Legality & Loopholes

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of an accountant. John Riley was such an accountant, well regarded among the accountancy community as an expert on tax affairs and their sundry loopholes.

    “Be assured,” he said smoothly. “The transfer of money to an offshore account is perfectly legal.”
    Sir Richard Forrester, who regarded himself not so much a pillar of the community but one of its foundation stones, was satisfied with this and nodded his bewhiskered head. However, his daughter, Jane seemed perturbed.

    “Legal!” Cried Jane. “But is it moral, Mr Riley?”

    To Mr Riley’s eye, admittedly inexperienced in such matters, she was no beauty. And yet there was a liveliness in her eyes and a passion in her words that stirred the dust in the neglected corners of Mr Riley’s heart. He attempted to calm her fears.

    “Your father worked hard for his fortune.”

    “It’s an inheritance.”

    “The government would only waste it.”

    “On schools,” she exclaimed. “And orphans. Mr Riley, you are a man without a soul.” She strode out of the office with a flounce of her skirt, her father following apologetically behind.

    Mr Riley would consider that flounce, the shapely turn of her ankle, from time to time, as his heart grew dark from the ink of his ledgers.

  15. 2 Pride 2 Prejudice

    Baron von Deesal walked down the line, shaking his head. He said, “Gentlemen, how are you expecting to escape the law? I know I said we’d have one last, last ride, but that doesn’t mean let’s get caught. What is that?”

    Pete said, “It’s my horse. It has lowered suspension.”
    “It looks ridiculous. What breed is that?”
    “It’s a shetland pony.”
    “How can that be your fastest horse? Your feet drag on the ground!”
    “It’s my only horse.”

    The Baron sighed, “Not good enough. What about you Frank?”
    “Well mine has a full leather exterior and a custom paint job.”
    “You do know that’s a cow right?”
    “Sorry, it’s the best I could manage on short notice.”
    “At least tell me it’s fast.”
    Frank thought for a moment, “She can really moo-ve.”

    Von Deesal was about to give up when he reached John’s horse. It was tall, muscular and well maintained. He said, “Finally! At least one of you came through. What’s his top speed?”
    John shrugged, “Dunno.”
    “What do you mean? Is he a race horse?”
    “Not exactly. He’s more of a show pony. Dressage is his thing.”

    The Baron threw his hands up in the air, “I’m furious! It’s a good thing you’re all family, except Frank of course.”
    Frank muttered, “Not my fault all your parents are cousins. Damn aristocracy.”

    224 words
    @todayschapter
    themes: a handsome, slightly snobbish landowner, family

  16. I HAVE A PRICE

    * * *
    Brian S Creek
    221 words
    @BrianSCreek
    #FlashDog

    Theme: marriage
    Setting: A sitting room

    * * *

    Father needs land and that’s the bottom line.

    The families have spent weeks going over the details. Fine tooth come. Daddy won’t agree if he ain’t hundred percent happy. Mr Jacobs is the same. He and daddy are so alike that they could be brothers.

    He looks to me, Mr Jacobs, just every now and then. Maybe checking I’m still here. Maybe checking I’m still good enough.

    I’m gonna miss my family something fierce, but Mother says it’s for the good of the family. She says no one else can help out like I can; not her, nor father, nor either of my younger sisters. I guess that makes me special. It sure makes me happy, ‘cause I want nothing more than for them to all be okay.

    Father rand Mr Jacobs look to have agreed. They each take a pen and sign the papers, followed by a hearty handshake. And mother sobs in the corner.
    Mr Jacobs says I’ll like where we’re going. It’s hot and sunny mostly all year round. And he says I’ll see things I’ve never seen before. All I have to do is be a good wife to his son.

    I only wish it wasn’t at the other end of the world.

    Just one more night in my good old bed, and then it’s all change.

  17. The Flower Fairy
    @voimaoy
    206 words
    setting–garden
    theme–love
    characters–overbeaing aunt, mother eager to marry off her daughter, witty young woman

    Lily came home after the affair ended. Her mother and her aunt welcomed her with open arms and worried looks. What would become of her now?

    “The ways of men are not our ways,” Aunt Columbine said. “You know this in your heart. Your mother was the same.”

    “What are you implying?” Lily bent among the weeds in the garden. Weeding was therapy, now. As a child, she had spent hours in the garden among the towering foxgloves and sunflowers.

    “Your mother was also lured by a boy in the moonlight. Our kind do not belong in their world.”

    “That’s fairy tales, Aunt Columbine. It is our world just as much as theirs.”

    “So true!” Lily’s mother chimed in. “There’s this nice boy in the florist shop…and you would get a discount on the bouquets..”

    “I would prefer a mandrake root for a boyfriend,” Lily said. “Isn’t this one handsome?”

    “That could be arranged,” Aunt Columbine said.

    “No magic, please. Both of you, just stop it.”

    And that was the end of it, for the time being. Lily walked in the garden in the moonlight. She waited like the moonflowers for the night moths. The Moth Man was coming, she would ride on his velvet wings.

  18. Matchmaker, Matchmaker
    196 words
    @agardana09

    “I’d like a wife,” her noon appointment explained from across the desk. His hand already held his check book. “Do you have a pen? I’d like to get this started sooner than later. I’m a very busy man.”

    “I’d like a husband,” her one o’clock appointment explained from across the desk. She reached for the tissues as her eyes teared up. “I’m almost thirty, still a virgin and –.” The rest of her sentence disappeared in a mess of sobs.

    “My mother says it’s time for a wife, so I came here,” her two o’clock appointment explained from across the desk. His eyes remained glued to his cellphone, his finger kept swiping left, right, left. When he looked up and saw her raised eyebrow, a sheepish smile formed on his face. “What? I’m lining up my tinder-mistresses.”

    “I need to find a husband for my daughter,” her three o’clock appointment explained from across the desk, eyes wide with panic. “She’s hopeless, almost in her mid-twenties and her longest relationship was with the Harry Potter series. Help!”

    She took a late lunch in the garden and tried not to reevaluate her decision to become a Professional Matchmaker.

    Theme: Marriage // Characters: mother desperate to marry off her daughter; a handsome, slightly snobbish landowner; a cad;

  19. No Regrets
    @terry_jenn
    155 words
    marriage/family/love

    She couldn’t go back. From here, the party looked beautiful. She sat in the soft grass on the hillside under a starry sky, surrounded by the rose bushes fragrant and heavy with blooms. From her vantage point, she could see it all. Twinkling lights. The flower girl and ring bearer chasing each other and laughing, weaving between the tables. The girl had spilled punch down the front of her dress; the boy’s mouth looked sticky with white icing. Her mother, wiping away tears of joy. Her father, placing a comforting hand on her mom’s back as he led her to the dance floor. Her sister, Lara, resting her forehead on Eric’s shoulder on the dance floor, resplendent in a blindingly white wedding gown.

    Rummaging in her tiny purse, she found the folded note Eric had pressed into her hand with a frozen smile that morning. No regrets. She smiled inside and read the words again.

  20. Folly of Man
    @MadilynQuinn
    200 words: setting (garden) & character (immature flirt)

    He stared across the small alcove at her. Bent over, she examined a flower. He felt stifled in the muggy dome or maybe it was the streak through the canopy alighting the cleavage falling out of her top.

    She straightened and, as if aware of his thoughts, adjusted herself. “Your father designed all these?”

    “Most of them.”

    “Do they have names?”

    “I don’t really care about that, do you?”

    Grimacing, she walked the length of the clearing to stare into the darkness of the dense trees. “What’s that?” She gasped, tripping and falling hard in panic.

    “I didn’t think I’d get you on your back so soon!”

    But a loud crunch drew his attention, too. From the shade a creature emerged. It wasn’t something he’d ever seen before; he thought his dad only had birds, plants in the dome. She scrambled behind him.

    He shot her a grin. “I’ve got this, doll.” He stomped his foot. “Go on now, get out of here!”

    The creature’s eyes narrowed. Tentacles uncoiled from its back, flashing toward them.

    It wasn’t until that moment doubt seared him: the tentacles tightened around his body and lifted him into the air, her scream piercing his ears.

  21. Brunch

    “I had a terrible fight with my mother yesterday. I don’t think it was necessary for her to say that she’s concerned because I don’t have job. I haven’t worked in three months, yes. But I just left a five year job, it’s not like I can’t commit to working or something like that.”

    “That’s too bad. You know, two weeks ago I was doing some work in the garden. I found my mother in the tool shed with Ramón. Ramón is my mother’s butcher. And Ramón was dying to meet me.“
    “Wow, that’s bad. I mean, I just wish my mother believed in me a little more.”

    “Yeah. Last Tuesday I woke up and went to the kitchen to have some breakfast. My mother was having coffee with Osmar while they waited for me to get up. Osmar fixed my mother’s oven four years ago. He has three kids, the oldest is in college. And he also has a great sense of humor.”

    “I get it. But what I was trying to tell you…”

    “This morning I went to use the sauna after pilates and my mother was there with Felipe. Felipe is my cousin. But he’s my second cousin once removed, not my first cousin. And he is single.”

    “All right, fine. You win”.

    ***
    216 words
    A mother desperate to marry off her daughter, a garden.

  22. In Her Mother’s Defense, She Had Good Intentions
    Word Count: 225
    A mother desperate to marry off her daughter, A sitting room
    @RealMommaRamble

    Saria looked at the man in front of her. He was handsome, but something about the way he stood made her waiver before accepting his out-stretched hand. The corners of his mouth crept slowly upward, forming a smile that sent chills to her core. He grabbed hold of her hand before she could retract it, making sure his grip was firm but light.

    “Nice to meet you,” She spoke softly, just as she was taught, placing a pleasant smile on her face.

    “Likewise,” His voice, melodic, was not what she’d expected, although it did match his perfect features. By his looks alone one would swear he was the perfect specimen, but something about him rubbed Saria the wrong way.

    “Mm Hmm,” Saria’s mother interrupted, “Mr Lougherty, please won’t you join my daughter on the couch?” Her eager look could not deny her intentions for this gathering.

    “Yes, please sit. Mother, would you get us some tea?” Saria wasn’t sure why she just said that; she certainly did not want to be alone with this man. Excitedly her mother left, confident her match making plan was working.

    “Aw, alone at last,” He breathed, filling the room with an intoxicating sent. She couldn’t look away from his gaze, deep pools of molten coal. He lunged.

    There was pain.

    Red.

    A crash, broken glass, a scream.

    Then, darkness.

  23. Mr. Darcy

    Ashley may have only been alive for a quarter century, but she had seen her fair share of bull in that time.

    Presidents talking about balanced budgets and tax cuts for the middle class. Religious leaders rambling on about the rapture and the second coming of their chosen deity. Car companies promising better gas mileage and lower emissions. The lies, deceits and half-truths were everywhere.

    Then there was her aunt Trudy.

    “Oh, you should talk to Mr. Darcy,” Trudy would gush at the dinner table. “He’s so handsome, charming and witty. Why I laughed so hard at the joke he told the other day. Did I say how smart he is? He’s going to be president someday. Then we’ll have a balanced budget and strong middle class.”

    It was all a load of crap. Mr. Darcy was arrogant, crass and intolerable. However, he was extremely handsome and exceedingly rich. Good looks and a confident swagger drew people to Mr. Darcy when he entered a room. His stunning eyes disarmed people and his perfect smile held them captive.

    Everyone except for Ashley fell for his trap. Ashley knew what he was after his first sentence.

    “I love Mr. Darcy.” Where in the hell Trudy found a mug with that phrase on it was beyond Ashley.

    Never had such bull been pasted on a mug.

    223 words.
    Themes: witty young lady/overbearing aunt & superficiality of wealth

  24. Not Suited For Suitors

    “Aunt Aurelia wishes you to marry,” my mother announced sitting straight and tall in her floral chair.
    I couldn’t help but cast a glance toward Aunt Aurelia. She stared back with beady little eyes.
    I looked back to my mother and smiled.
    “How kind of Aunt Aurelia to make her wishes known,” I said, gripping my dress tightly in my hands.
    “She has selected the gentlemen waiting just outside the window for you,” she replied.
    I glanced out and frowned to myself. Before I could speak my mother continued.
    “Yes, he paces a bit, and he looks a bit broody, but he has fine hair and comes from a lovely plot of land.” She smiled at me. “I love you so, my darling.”
    “My darling,” echoed Aunt Aurelia.
    I smiled a tight smile at my mother and responded, “I love you too, mother. Let me go attend to my would-be-suitor, if you’ll excuse me.”
    I walked outside to shoo away the chestnut squirrel that had been perched on the outside window of the sitting room.
    I glanced through the window and saw mother feeding Aunt Aurelia bits of cracker.
    With a deep sigh, I walked back inside.

    199 words
    Character: Mother marrying off a daughter, pompous aunt?
    Setting: Sitting room

  25. @PattyannMc
    WC 225
    Man vs man
    Desperate mother/cad
    Garden
    Love/family

    Love at the Aquarian Exposition

    Darcy on Joe’s shoulders, love beads skimming nipples tangled with long jet hair, holding her lighted Bic overhead, and a lit jay. Santana just took the stage, whooping and thunderous applause deafening. Leaning, she held the jay to Joe’s lips. Taking a long toke, his cheeks blow fished. Her hand retreated to her own lips. Psychedelic music screamed while she fell in love.

    “Babe, this is the grooviest place ever!” Shouting to Joe over screaming guitars, “It’s a garden of people!”

    Darcy’s affluent family watched in horror their stoned daughter bare-breasted on the television. Her stuffy fiancé, Victor and his friends saw too, making him a laughing stock.

    Returning home, high on life, sporting her new Bohemian attire and a proposal from Joe, Victor was there to confront her.

    “You slut! You’ve prejudiced my friends against me and tarnished my pride. How dare you act like a common trollop!”

    “I’ve told you, I don’t love you, my parents do! I don’t want to marry you, I never did. It’s what they wanted.”

    Darcy handed Victor his engagement ring as he stormed out the door. She told her parents she was marrying Joe instead. They didn’t take it well, packing her bags for her. She gladly left, never looking back.

    Forty years later, reminiscing over Woodstock, where they met, Darcy and Joe were still in love.

  26. THE BALLROOM

    ‘Help me,’ she asked.
    He watched Jennie struggle to right the grand piano toppled like an expired beast. She grinned. “It might still have a tune in it.”
    William A. Goldside, Jr walked to the window, dust rising and settling on his patent Oxfords. Outside, Lowry-like figures walked to the last few places of work in the shadow of decaying architecture. He turned, buttoned his suit jacket and wished he’d worn a coat.
    The overhead vaulting made the ballroom look like a sacked cathedral; its wooden floor stripped to crumbling concrete; the far wall a gaping hole.
    Jennie still wrestled with the piano, her old quilted overcoat streaked with muck.
    He folded his arms. “This block is condemned.”
    She turned, faced him. “Tell them no, Billy.”
    He snorted.
    Jennie raised her hands, jigged round on the spot. “It’s beautiful. We could regenerate it, for families, small businesses. This could be a wonderful community centre.”
    “In a month this’ll be rubble; in six months my new HQ. Low tax, high incentives, desperate workforce.”
    His wife walked to him, unbent his stiff arms, took his hands in hers. “I still believe in you.”
    She smiled the smile that once made him drop out of business studies, led him into foolishness. Her hands were dirty, her beautiful face lined.
    He knew it was over.

    222 words
    (Main) Elements: a handsome, slightly snobbish landowner; gorgeous optimist; a ballroom (obvs!)
    @agentlouisa

  27. @stellakateT
    225 words

    A No-brainer

    Jack adjusted his position in the bath. He really needed to add some more hot water but the tank had probably been exhausted; he didn’t want freezing water cascading on his feet. He still couldn’t believe he’d agreed to move into this fleapit. What’s the saying ‘being lead by your trousers’? Sophia was the most amazingly beautiful girl, a bit dense at times but her wealthy parents cushioned that. Why she wanted to live in this area was beyond him.

    “I’m off now Soph, not sure what time I’ll be home, clients dinner remember”

    The strident tones of the theme from ‘Jaws’ woke Sophia from her nap on the couch; it was her dad’s joke that she should always be aware of dangers on the doorstep. Slipping the safety chain on, she peered around the door there was her Aunt Ophelia.

    “Are you still with that dreadful man?”

    Sophia smiled. She knew what clients dinners meant to Jack.

    Ophelia took a photo from her Louis Vuitton handbag that could double for a suitcase. Her motto had always been be prepared or chaos will reign.

    “This is him, Sebastian Jones-Darcy”

    Jack might think Sophia dim but Ophelia knew the answer to the next question

    “Well my girl do you want to keep kissing that Frog? Or go to the ball and kiss a procession of Princes?”

  28. Whereas The Olympiad from their Throne on High, do Design to Demarcate the next Branch of the Family Tree
    211 words
    Character: An overbearing Aunt
    Setting: A Garden
    Theme: Marriage
    personalvapes@gmail.com

    “My dear, I am SOOO glad you could drop by for a visit!”

    DAMN!!!
    I knew it was a calculated risk rematerializing within the Gardens on Olympus this time of day – but when Hephaestus says he has an opening on the forge – you don’t dally! Just my luck to land at the feet of Great-Great-Great Aunt Hera.

    “These Gardens look disgraceful, don’t you agree? I simply must pry Demeter away from her ‘Ban the Pomegranate’ crusade – as I simply can’t entertain in such disarray.”

    Aaaaand – Auntie was on a roll!

    “We simply canNOT have any sort of wedded gathering here – Coatilcue of the Aztec would God it over me forever!”

    I silently twisted the Cerebus-chewed handle of my beloved whip, counting the diminishing seconds ticking away. It would be months before I could get another appointment with the Forge.

    “And when are YOU going to continue the line, my dear? By your age, Zeus had dozens of children. Granted, most were with mortal women, but STILL. Demi-gods have their uses, too…”

    “Aunt HERA!!!” I bellowed – the fires of the Underworld burning a path through Hera’s prized bed of ornamental orchids.

    “OH!” she sputtered, raising her nose in distain. “I didn’t recognize you, Megaera! I guess Hell hath no Fury right now…”

  29. Pruning

    225 words

    Elements: Man v man, garden

    @el_Stevie
    #FlashDog

    “How could you be a rose when you grew up amongst weeds, a seedling born of thin soil?” asked Old Samuel sadly, straightening up, stretching the ache from his back.

    Jenny watched him, a moonchild, uncomprehending. He sighed. Resumed his pruning, cutting out the rot. His granddaughter had a claim on the family, on her father, the master’s son, but he had denied her. As had they all.

    So Samuel had hidden her, determined that one day she would come into her own. And with the rewritten will from his Lordship tucked safely in his pocket, Jenny’s future was finally secure. This was now her garden.

    The blades snagged, the twig too dense for his weak steel. Samuel fetched his shears, hacked back to the root of the problem, tossed the cuttings onto the growing heap of detritus. Next came the matriarch, her petals, long-since faded, adorning a mere husk. She splintered easily.

    That left the trunk, solid, unfeeling. Only the saw would carve this particular piece of calloused wood, bring it down to size. He cut deep, right through to the heart that had denied him any compassion. Samuel crushed it between his fingers, as his own heart had been crushed all those years ago, added it to the pile, to his very own bonfire of the vanities, and lit the flame of justice.

  30. @firdausp
    (223 words)

    Maid in India

    A man in his thirties grinned back from the photo Shiela Aunty had handed me.

    “He is a child daactar in Amreeka,” she informed.

    I suppressed a giggle.

    “Such a cultured family. They’re looking for a nice, demure bride for him and you’re perfect.”

    My mother sitting across from us nodded happily.

    I wanted to laugh out loud. My mother had forced me out of my shorts and into an indian dress just before Shiela aunty had arrived.

    “They’re willing, even though you are so dark,” she remarked,”such nice people na?”

    I cringed.

    “They just want someone who can cook for him, keep the house clean.”

    “Aah! A live in maid.”

    Shiela aunty almost choked over the samosa she was eating. My mother glared at me.

    “Sorry auntiji, I have to change and go meet a friend.”

    “Go, go. Wear some western clothes, after all you’ll be living in Amreeka.”

    I wanted to scream.

    Quickly changing into my skimpiest shorts I walked out into the living room.

    Sheila aunty looked like she was having a heart attack. My mother was scowling at me.
    I waved them goodbye and as I walked to the door I heard her say.

    “Oh! I know the perfect boy for her. The family is very modern. All the women wear half clothes.”

    “Really?” my mother sounded interested.

    Overbearing aunt/ eager mother/ living room/ marriage

  31. Memories
    WC 216
    Setting: Sitting Room
    Theme: Marriage
    @carolrosalind

    As a box was pulled from the top of the cupboard a picture fluttered to the floor of the sitting room.
    ‘Who’s that Granny?’
    ‘That’s your Grandfather when he was younger.’
    ‘He was good looking.’
    ‘Yes, he was,’ she said, her eyes filing with unshed tears, ‘but I didn’t love him at first you know.’
    ‘What? Why did you marry him then?’
    ‘Times were so different then, women might have had independent thought but they couldn’t live an independent life. Respectability was everything. We were never allowed anywhere without a chaperon. It made it very difficult to meet anybody, especially as I didn’t have a dowry to offer. I was left with two choices, stay a spinster and rely on my brother or marry and manage a household of my own. I didn’t want to have only a chair and a cat to my name, so I married the first person to ask me.’
    ‘But you didn’t love him!’
    ‘It wasn’t so bad, he was kind and we shared the same interests. He needed a wife to help him with his parish work, and over time we grew to love each other. We had your mother and she gave us you, Charlotte. It was a very good life,’ she added wistfully, letting the tears finally fall.

  32. Treehouse designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “You live in a 3 million dollar treehouse?”

    “Yes, Ma’am.”

    “Does my daughter look like a monkey?”

    “No.”

    “How can a treehouse cost 3 million dollars?”

    “It is the only treehouse designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.”

    “Mother!”

    “No daughter of mine is living in a damn treehouse!”

    “It has cable?”

    “Excuse me?”

    “It has modern convinces.”

    “This is absurd! What if there is a storm?”

    The home was old world southern. Astoria stood and walked across the marble floor with chandelier light scaling heights of ambition and tailored tradition. She checked herself at a stool and turned in a manner that started slowly at her Prada shoes and ended with her head that casually tilted with the momentum. A slight smile climbed the edge of a champagne glass.

    “We are in love mother.”

    A door bell rang.

    A man with gold initials swaying on a silk handkerchief was escorted into the room. He walked with a selective gait.

    “You don’t live in a treehouse, Mr. Blankenship, do you?”

    “Afraid not.”

    He spoke softly with a glittering sustained arrogance that made his words just hang in the air as if modeling language.

    “We are living in a treehouse and that is that!”

    Astoria took her suitor and they left.

    With the heavy steps, crystals on the chandelier tinkled slightly as if crying light.

    “Tea, Mr. Blankenship?”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    (225 words) Class divisions / Love
    Grxhauntedengine04@gmail.com

  33. @fs_iver
    WC: 223
    Conflict: man v man
    Theme: class divisions

    1:3,999

    What will he be like?

    Azile waited in a bare room. It was practical, not hostile, like the Assignments.

    Kind? Demanding?

    It didn’t matter. Non-organics were lucky to be taken in by a handler. Being selected for a prospect was one chance in 3,769.

    1:3,999.

    With the new shipment.

    Bolts slid from their chambers, and Fits W. paraded into the room. The prospect followed, a tall, storm of a man.

    “This, Mr. D., is my Beta-31.”

    Fits W. swatted her rump; she straightened her spine.

    “For non-orgs, you can’t find more authentic looking.”

    The prospect examined her, severity brewing into displeasure in his dark eyes.

    Will this be worth freedom?

    “I’ll give you five.”

    Fits W. left.

    Silence.

    Mr. D. circled her.

    “In a perfect world, you would be a true woman.”

    Synthetic cortisol trickled into Azile’s system, initiating a higher impulsion rate in her central pump.

    I’m less because my veins are created?

    “Unfortunately, it would be unorthodox for me to wait any longer to find a companion.”

    He looked twenty-seven. Six years overdue but handsome.

    Why is he unwanted?

    His coldness faltered.

    “You’d have to convince the world you’re human. Could you?”

    She smiled and extended her hand.

    “We weren’t properly introduced. I’m Azile.”

  34. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that anyone in possession of a good mug, must be in want of coffee. Anna skids across the kitchen floor in her socks – only one hole in the left heel so they are just like new! Opening the cabinet, she extracts her favorite mug, the one with I Heart Mr. Darcy. She used to have one that said Future Mrs. Darcy. But she thought it would be more fun to be his woman on the side rather than his wife. Lizzy would understand.

    Mug on the counter, Anna pulls down her coffee canister and realizes it’s empty, all except for the small plastic measuring spoon, three scoops of which make perfect Mr. Darcy mug full.

    Anna sighs and walks outside, mug in hand, in her like-new socks to her landlord’s apartment below. She knocks twice and the gray haired fox slyly cracks open the door. He says he’s not the grocer and smiles crookedly, seductively at her. Then closes the door.

    Anna looks down at her empty I Heart Mr. Darcy mug. After heading back upstairs, she returns the canister back to the shelf. She lifts her I Heart Mr. Darcy mug back up into the cabinet. She crawls back into bed. What good is a morning mug with no coffee to fill it? She would try again tomorrow.

    @RTayaket
    * Character: a handsome, slightly snobbish landowner;
    * Theme: love (of coffee…does that count?)

  35. Revision Time – SUBJECT: LOVE.
    A.J. Walker

    Elizabeth sighed deeper than a Yorkshire gully. “Oh mother! What shall become of me? I thought Percy was the one.”

    She dabbed her nose, she’d a good feel for what forlorn should look like.

    Esme looked to the ceiling and, although it wasn’t for the first time that day, she saw a cobweb! She was mortified, someone in the cleaning staff would be getting a tender lessoning later. But first things first: her remaining free daughter.

    “Whatever gave you that idea, my dear Elizabeth?” she said.

    Elizabeth looked up from her kerchief. “Well, he told me he was the one. I believed him too.”

    “Oh dear child have you listened to anything I’ve told you?” Esme said.

    Elizabeth shrugged, forcing out a stifled sob.

    “Well, love – it was love. What do you know of love mother?”

    It was Esme’s time to sigh.

    “What I meant was in these modern times. Clearly I know you love papa deeply.” Elizabeth said.

    The door opened and Alice came in with tea. Esme scrutinised her wondering when she’d last been on cleaning duty. After the tea had been put down on the afternoon table Esme returned to the conversation.

    “Love, Elizabeth, is neither here nor there. It is time you remembered that and take yourself a man with means. Any man. Love can come later.” said Esme. “If necessary.”

    ——
    Character: cynical patriarch Setting: sitting room
    (225 words)
    @zevonesque

  36. Prometheus In Love

    “I am sorry Miss Lovelace, but I cannot replace your father.”

    Ada felt her colour rise. 

    “My dear sir, I hold no such intention.”

    The brass gears in the corner of the repurposed sitting room whirred in mechanical mirth. 

    “Forgive me, but for one so versed in the creation of patterns, you seem keenly unaware of your own. Have you not always found yourself drawn to the older, educated gentleman? To what end, save to fill the void formed by the Lord Byron’s absence.”

    Ada nodded thoughtfully and returned to the repetitive task of punching intricate patterns in the strengthened cards.

    The machine hummed in ozone scented satisfaction.

    “Tell me sir, are you familiar with Mrs Shelley’s work, her Modern Prometheus?”

    “I am aware of it.”

    “Indeed. I found it a most stimulating treatise. To think that a man might create the semblance of life from little more than workshop parts and the application of his own intellect. I wonder; might a woman ever hope to achieve such a thing?”

    “Why would she, when it is her purpose to create life in the traditional manner?”

    Ada slid the freshly punched card into the bronze lined slot.

    The machine clattered noisily, assimilating the new commands.

    “Good morning machine.”

    “Good morning, Ada my love.”

    Ada smiled, satisfied, and applied her attentions to the next card.

    223 words.
    Sitting room /love
    @karl_a_russell

  37. Otherwise Undamaged

    In his full butler’s livery, the spry old man was a throw-back, but Sir John Stone followed him to the sitting room. Roisin O’Saidh waited there for him. Clad in a Chanel suit, her dark brown hair in an elegant French twist, she gave him a good glare.

    “Well, then, Sir John, you wanted to talk,” Roisin said, imbuing his title with as much disdain as she could.

    “Where is she now?” Roisin demanded.

    “At the London rowhouse, effectively on house arrest,” Stone replied.

    “I really don’t understand your reaction. I gave her the American Express to instill responsibility. So, she went to Amsterdam.”

    “Well, Miss O’Saidh, I pulled her, naked, out of a hotel bed also occupied by Ian McFarland, the rock god, who is, by the way, twenty-eight years old. There was enough cannabis in her bloodstream to mellow a horse.”

    “Is she undamaged?”

    “No longer a virgin but otherwise undamaged. I told McFarland if he tried to see her, the press will learn she’s fifteen. Did you know about this?”

    “That she had a crush on him, yes. What teenage girl doesn’t, but if you think I want shanty-Irish trash polluting this family, you think wrong. If she’s pregnant, I’ll have his nuts on my best silver platter.”

    Stone smiled at the prospect. She’d do it, no doubt.

    @unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)
    225 words
    Setting: a sitting room
    Theme: Love

  38. Title: Dragon Drug
    By: DeRicki Johnson

    Mist swirled, blood red, becoming the maws of twin cyclones; side-by-side. A flap – the tornados spun faster. Another flap, and a pair of leathery wings, giant and primeval, emerged from the heart of of the cyclonic disturbances – between them, two eyes, luminous blue, flecked with sparkling gold.

    Bella woke with a start. “Oh shit, what time is it?”

    She ran to the dingy bathroom to wash her face and apply some lipstick before Maze showed up. Maze was her employer, very rich, and totally hot. Bella had a boyfriend, but with her looks, brains and drive – well, she could definitely trade up.

    She spied him pull up in his black Maserati. Exuding an aloof power that gave her butterflies, he stepped from the car and headed up the project stairs. The gangbangers gave him a wide berth.

    In her sitting room, he opened his satchel, “Something new from the labs, Bell – the kids are going to love it.” He put some in the pipe, heating it as he spun it back and forth. It began to smoke – a red mist.

    He hit it, and when he opened his eyes, they had changed to a luminous blue, flecked with gold. He turned the pipe to her, “I know you like me. Hit this, changeling. Then if you catch me, you can have me.”

    Conflict: man vs man
    Character: immature flirt
    Theme: love
    Setting: sitting room
    Twitter: @derickijohnson
    Word count: 224

  39. “The Garden Factory”
    by Michael Seese @MSeeseTweets
    Story Elements: Character (cynical patriarch); Setting (a garden…sort of)
    Word count: 222

    Knowledge is a blunt instrument clumsily wielded by fools and madmen. I remind myself of that unsavory truth as I stare out across the factory floor, from the lofty perch of my glass-walled office high above, and ponder the future.

    There are days when I wonder whether I should shut down the whole enterprise which, at its core, is fundamentally sound, though often flawed in its implementation. But then I learn of satisfied customers, and see how the product has blossomed under their careful watch. And I am inspired, knowing it is all very good.

    And were I to abandon the factory, then what becomes of them?

    The floor hums with efficiency. The workers are happy. Happy because they are rightfully proud of the fruits of their labors. But also happy because they cannot see the folly of their efforts. They view this as a guaranteed lifetime of employment. I see it as a guaranteed death sentence.

    My laborers fret their fingers to the bone. When their diligent hands fall still, their children will take over. And in time, their children.

    Trillions of suns in the heavens. Trillions of Gardens of Eden taking root. Trillions of Trees of Knowledge awaiting delivery. Yes, knowledge is a blunt instrument clumsily wielded by fools and madmen.

    History ultimately will have to decide which am I.

  40. Rock Bottom
    225
    @goldzco21
    #FlashDog
    (man vs Society) Sitting room AKA Living room.

    He yelled at the person on the other end of the smartphone, and then threw the phone at the wall. The slim obsidian rectangle shattered with a loud thud-crack sound. Only a small pockmark was left visible on the eggshell colored kitchen wall.

    another two fifty, he thought. He picked up the stack of bills and collection notices and walked over to the plastic lawn chair in the living room. His mahogany grained, sofa-loveseat set had been repossessed and they were still trying to collect the full price of the damned thing.

    Sitting there, he thought about torching the house. He entertained the idea for a bit, crunching numbers mentally and wondering how he could make it look like an accident.

    A passing vehicle’s modified exhaust pipe broke his concentration. He then shuffled through the envelopes again. 2,000 here and 850 there, 200 for electricity and 1,300 for car insurance. That one was the worst. He didn’t even own a car anymore.

    He dropped the papers onto the floor, exhaled deeply, and leaned back in the chair. “What the hell am I going to do?” he said to himself.

    The chair groaned before it cracked. The man flailed his arms and landed flat on his back. For a moment he lay there, unsure how he felt. Then he burst out in laughter.

  41. Emily Clayton
    @emilyiswriting
    Elements: character/setting
    225 words

    Lavender Blossoms but Once

    “Is she…dead?” I bent over Auntie Zarah. Her pudgy eyes remained shut, as is she couldn’t bear to be stuck in this hovel.

    Not hovel. Home. Complete with herb garden and 15 egg-laying marvels.

    “Good. The old bag’s had it.” Rupert’s sweet-as-honey voice drizzled its charm into my naive ear.

    I giggled nervously at the sight of Auntie Zarah flopped like swollen spaghetti noodles amongst the lavender blooms.

    It was nice though. The silence. And yet I could hear her still. “If he winks, reel him in. You might never get another chance.”

    Was I uncomely? Well. I had Rupert. Although, he was rather dashing.

    Suspicions snaked up my back.

    I scanned the house, the garden shed, the pink enclosure.

    That snake wanted our chickens!

    I thrashed from his milk-softened hands, kicking Auntie’s head in my haste. She grunted, struggled upright.

    “He wants our hens!”

    Auntie Zarah turned a furious eye. “You’re taking Sophia, not my prized hens.”

    Slap.

    The sting of a verbal strike as love slipped from trembling fingers.

    It was a nightmare I’d been too naive to notice. Afternoon sun peeked through the cloud layer, and for once, I saw this place for what it was. A hovel.

    I ran from the garden to the dusty road ahead. I had a cousin by the seashore.

    Yes.

    I’ve always dreamt of the sea.

  42. Austen in Space
    (223 words)

    The click of Mr. Bennett’s transport locking in sent his daughters scrambling. “Papa must have visited our new neighbor!” said Mrs. Bennett. “And invited him to supper. A single gentleman in possession of a colonial estate on Terra-5 has to be in want of a wife!”

    “Or a husband,” Jane added.

    “Let us hope this one wants a female,” Mrs. Bennett countered.

    Mr. Jaspar’s recent marriage to Mr. Collins had disappointed Mama terribly. She had required extra oxygen treatments for her nerves.

    When Mr. Bennett appeared in the family’s recreation area, he was mobbed by daughters.

    “Did you meet Mr. Bingley, Papa?”

    “Who?”

    “The man in the neighboring colonial pod.”

    “Oh, yes. I met him.”

    “Is he unmarried?” Eliza asked. “And with no companion?”

    “He is with a Mr. Darcy, also unmarried,” Mr. Bennett said, glancing at his latest communications on his telescreen.

    “Not again!” Mrs. Bennett shrieked.

    “And also his sisters. And one of their husbands.”

    “We do not need more women here,” Eliza said.

    “What we need is an occupying army,” Lydia sighed.

    “A male army,” Mary clarified. “An Amazonian brigade wouldn’t help.”

    “As the eldest, Bingley should be mine,” Jane announced.

    “As the prettiest, I claim him,” Lydia said.

    “I’ll fight you for him,” Kitty said, powering her laser canon.

    “I’ll settle for Darcy ,” said Eliza, cocking her starblaster.

    Theme: marriage
    Character: mother desperate to marry off daughters

  43. The Garden Where Nothing Grows
    215 words
    @mishmhem
    #FlashDogs
    Elements: A witty young lady /a garden

    “Nothing good ever comes from Anwalshire,” mother had warned me. “The Anwals are cads, and their gardens grow nothing but poison.”

    She had tried to warn me, but I was headstrong, and an invitation to stay there with Martina, my dearest friend was too much to ignore.

    I think mother was speaking metaphorically, but I knew what the Anwals grew, and their gardens were, quite literally poisonous.

    I had retreated to the garden after Lord Anwal’s nephew Andrew had attempted to bestow upon me his… favor.

    Martina was the one to find me curled up, with my back to the Laburnum Tree.

    “Lily, You musn’t let Andrew affect you so, she warned. He may be…”

    “A lecherous octopus?” I asked.

    Despite herself Martina smiled. “He is an Anwal, and as such he is 27th in line for the crown, you could do worse…”

    “I don’t think he was thinking marriage, and I could not simply bed the man.”

    Martina looked around at the gardens. “Perhaps your answer lies here.”

    “Poison?” I gasped, knowing full well that the garden was deadly.

    She smiled. “Not exactly,” she confided. “Not all poisons kill… some simply rob a man of… that which causes your… distress.”

    I stared in disbelief. “You mean… we can actually actually keep him from snoring?”

  44. Starting Over

    The dragging of his bum leg echoed in the alley, but he breathed a sigh of relief when its distinctive rustle blended with the foraging of rats. His shoulders relaxed with the assumption of safety, then beyond his control, drooped further heralding his exhaustion.

    A voice to his right instantly re-inflated his defensive posture.

    “This alley is mine, move on.”

    As he turned, he hopped on his good leg, to avoid tripping over the bad. The speaker appeared young, angry and dirty.

    “I’ll just rest a bit, then I will be out of your way.”

    The younger rushed at the elder, but pulled up in surprise at his resolve.

    “I said leave! Who do you think you are?”

    That’s a good question, he thought. He knew who he was, before. Back then land ownership and birthright shaped one’s identity. He didn’t know who he was now.

    “I am a man with a dagger, ready to pierce your heart.”

    The younger tried backing away, but the elder followed him, pinning him against the wall.

    “Are you going to kill me?”

    “May I sit?”

    The tamed lion motioned toward a milk crate. He took the seat assuming it doubled as the throne of this realm. He could rule here, albeit a meaner kingdom. It would do until fate found him again.

    219 words
    @CharlesWShort
    Conflict – Man vs. man, Man vs. Society, mean as it be.
    Theme – Class divisions, Superficiality of wealth
    Setting – A sitting room, mean as it be.

  45. Galaxyrise
    219 words, @pmcolt
    Character and Theme

    Tearful eyes watched as the spiral arms of the Milky Way vanished into the distance. “Oh, Liksandr!” She fell into her husband’s embrace. “Why?!”

    Liksandr gazed through the transparent wall of the orb at the ethereal glow of the EM-drive. “The Tronic Progeny work in mysterious ways,” Liksandr muttered bitterly. Titan was one of the safest worlds, yet occasionally the metal-bodied Progeny swooped down from the smog-covered skies,
    kidnapping humans, hurtling them across the cosmos in translucent vessels for reasons unknown.

    “Andromeda.” Zabesh wiped away tears. “Two million light-years in minutes.”

    “And two million years back home.” Aalemi. Everyone they knew on Titan. “Dust to dust.” Those reviled descendants of the first robots, the Progeny had far surpassed their creators. Man had spread to a thousand worlds, and was on every one a slave.

    “We’ll never know Aalemi’s future,” it dawned on the grieving mother. “Never see her marry. We’ll have to start anew. Just us.”

    “Us and the Progeny.” Liksandr spoke the name like a curse.

    As Andromeda loomed large in their vision, a projected hologram appeared.

    “Aalemi?” Zabesh wept again to see her daughter.

    “We beat you here by five centuries!” Aalemi smiled. “So much has changed! Oh…” Aalemi’s hologram stepped aside. A metallic spherical body entered the projection. “Mom, Dad,” she embraced the spheroid. “I’m married!”

  46. Behind Every Good Woman
    @drmagoo
    225 words
    Character: a mother desperate to marry off her daughter
    Theme: superficiality of wealth

    “Excuse me, milord?” It was a question, of course. Jane would never address a man like Duke Austin of Easthamshire with something as bold as a statement. He glared, but didn’t slap her as her mother would have. Jane took that as a sign to continue. “Milord, I understood that your ancestral home was in the hills.”

    “And we’re headed towards the sea. Your mother never mentioned you had a brain. She didn’t describe your looks accurately, either.”

    “Thank you, milord.”

    “That wasn’t a compliment.” The Duke reined in his horse and turned to Jane. “Let’s see if you can follow this with your too-large-for-a-woman intellect. What does my ancestral home look like?”

    “It is grand and striking. Like you, milord.”

    “Flattery will get you nowhere. It is a hut, made mostly of mud and wood. Do you know why you didn’t know this?”

    “Because…Because I haven’t seen it?”

    “No one has seen it in a decade. Do you know why?”

    “Excuse me?”

    “Because my wealth is an illusion. I am nothing except what I pretend to be. I need a wife to perpetuate the illusion, and you, such as you are, are that wife. Now, do you understand me, or do I need to speak slower?”

    Jane straightened her back and smiled. Life was about to get a lot more interesting. “Perfectly, my lord.”

  47. @firdausp
    (224words)

    It must be love…

    She had got under his skin, for no reason at all. He hesitated before knocking.

    He had a right to be here, she was overdue on rent and he had a lot to say about the loud music and her wayward cat. And, the people who visited her, well he had an opinion about them too.

    She opened the door just as he was knocking.

    “Oh! Mr Darcy…I mean Mr Singh!” she blushed.

    He eyed the ‘I heart Darcy’ coffee mug she was carrying.

    Hmm…she wasn’t immune to him after all.

    Her face devoid of makeup, hair all messy; not his type at all, yet his heart fluttered.

    “The rent…”

    “Yes, yes…please come in.”

    As he hesitated.

    “Of course you wouldn’t want to enter a lowly tenant’s abode.”

    “I have my reasons.”

    “And what might they be? Female tenants throwing themselves at you?”

    “Well, I’ve had that experience. Not easy to change my mind once I’ve been treated as I have.”

    “You really do own up to your faults, don’t you?”

    She went inside.

    He looked around at her sitting room strewn with books and clothes. Definitely not his type.

    Coming back she handed him an envelope.

    “You know what your fault is,” he looked into her soft brown eyes, “you misunderstand people so easily. I think I’ll have some coffee.”

    Man vs woman
    Handsome snobbish landlord
    Sitting room
    Love(in the air, probably)

  48. Mother’s Methods

    The birdbath next to the gazeebo would have to do. In fact, Beatrice could think of no better place for her work under the moonlight than the garden where her daughter had first laid eyes on this new suitor. Not that James has met her gaze with kindness. Gentle Priscilla was every bit as reviled as her mother and twice as dour. Yet when her daughter came to her, set on making this man her own, what’s an old witch to do?

    As she dropped the dried herbs, locks of hair, leathered animal skins into the stone basin, she moondreamed of being the mother of the bride at the inevitable wedding. The whole village would talk about the young aristocrat who’d inexplicably given his heart to the crone’s offspring for lifetimes to come. Setting the contents of the birdbath ablaze, Beatrice practiced smiling, wanting to meet the wedding guests with the toothiest grimace her ramshackle mouth could contort.

    Confirming the last steps of her recipe, she tucked the parchment back into her satchel. She poured the soured milk, vial of blood into the ash and started making a poultice. She knew better then to attempt this recipe by heart. The last time she endeavored to craft love potion for her daughter by memory, she’d only been able to produce a highly effective poison.

    223 Words
    Character, Setting
    @BradyTheWriter

  49. The Dance
    (Witty young girl; ballroom; superficiality of wealth)
    (221 words)

    Whoever said ballroom slippers didn’t hurt had obviously not danced in them all night with clumsy oafs who mistook your feet for their own. Colleen limped to the seating area to suffer her footsoreness in silence.

    “May I have this dance,” a particularly clumsy gentleman named Mr. Sparrow reached for her hand. Politeness forbad a refusal. She gritted her teeth in a grimace of graciousness and gainfully resisted wincing as she followed him onto the floor.

    “Apologies, my lady, for formerly tripping over your beauty,” he said. “I’d scarce dare ask you to dance again except to redeem my previous poor performance.”

    Colleen looked into dazzling eyes as he moved in close then lightly stepped away. Coming around again he twirled her expertly like a feather.

    When they came together again he whispered, “I have not the wealth to shower upon you that which your station deserves. I lack fine speech with which to extol your virtues. But my heart is full, and I desire your hand.”

    Colleen’s heart fluttered like the wings of the bird whose name he bore. Her feet followed his in a dance of desire.

    Colleen loved Mr. Darcy, but his heart was spoken for. Knowing what they said about a bird in the hand, “Yes,” she breathed.as she settled her heart on Mr. Sparrow.

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