Tag Archive | Becky Conway

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 41: WINNERS

Goooooooood morning!!! WHAT A WEEKEND!!! On one side of the pond was a #FlashDogs meetup, and here in the Shenandoah Valley we enjoyed a writers’ retreat hosted by the inimitable Foy Iver (you think she writes a mean piece of flash? you should taste her guacamole!!). 

Before we launch into today’s results, I’ve a VERY COOL announcement: starting THIS VERY SATURDAY, we’re kicking off yet another new opportunity here at Flash! Friday, a feature we’re calling Pyromaniacs. Have you longed for frank critiques of your writing but are too terrified to ask? Here’s your chance!

  • Email me via here anytime with a flash piece (500 words or under) you’d like the community to critique (regular FF guidelines apply). Be sure to specify it’s for critique.
  • Each Saturday I’ll choose one of those stories (stripped of all identification — no one will ever know the author unless you wish it), post it, and invite the FF draggins (that’s you!) to comment (respectfully) on how you think it could be improved. 

That’s it! The rest is up to the community. I’m terribly excited about this; writing helpful critiques is a tough skill to learn, and on top of writers coming away with useful feedback each week, this #Pyro feature will give us all a chance to work on becoming better critiquers ourselves. Fun stuff.

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Speaking of inimitable, thanks aplenty are owed Dragon Team Seven, Nancy Chenier & IfeOluwa Nihinlola, for their painstaking work this round. Cry, the Beloved Country is a powerful but difficult novel to read; your stories likewise. Thank you, Nancy & IfeOluwa! Here are their comments:   

– What a week! Priests both philandering and intrepid, women bearing babes both auspicious and abominable, confessions dire and personal. Despair contended with hope. Tradition took on modernity. Cry, the Beloved Country inspired fifty delectable bits of flash. Thank you, thank you for once again sharing your craft and creativity, Flash! Friday Dragons.

Cry, the Beloved Country is probably alien to many in the Flash! Friday community, yet fifty stories come out of this. I don’t know how many of you do this every week, but I’m here, once again, thanking you all for another round of good writing.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Birdman Award: Marie McKay, “The City View.This award is for, well, the use of flight—both of fancy and of wings. And for the bird’s eye view we’re given of the city in figurative, emotional and literal language. 

Switcheroo Award: Tim Kimber, “Faith in Humanity.” This award is for reassigning the religiosity of lilies of the field to secularism, and imaging a world where science is the “true faith” and “flower unemployment” makes perfect sense.

Whiplash Award: Jenn, “Posh Preggers.” For boomeranging my attitude toward the MC in the final line. Suddenly the shallow, materialistic girl inspires sympathy by gazing out at the ocean.

Sly Fox Award: Michael Seese, “Judgment.” For the subtle forecasting (“Real pain and fear is hard to fake” and “good practice”) of what the very cunning MC is up to.

Lotus-Unfolding Award: Foy Iver, “Adrift on the Stars’ Ocean.” For its elegantly slow reveal of the urgent situation and gently disclosed and resolved friction between the women.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Carolyn Ward, Harvest Time.

N: The voice in this one drew me right in from the redundancy of “everlasting eternity” to the way she described the baby “being all hugged by my body” and herself being “filled to the brim”. The figurative language the narrator uses matches the voice of this girl with its simple honesty. The way the mother appears as the antagonistic force here (rather than the priest, the true villain) sets up some serious dramatic irony. Mom’s introduced as the cruel child-taker when she tells her daughter she’ll never hold her child. That is confirmed in the next paragraph with the mother’s slapping of her daughter whenever she protests (caterwauls). The pathos culminates in the final line, in the sad little victory the narrator assumes over her mother by “not telling her” about the priest. At that point the reader understand who the antagonist really is and how the MC putting one over on enemy-Ma is actually compromising her interests.

I: There’s a lot packed into the voice of this narrator: innocence, class, naiveté. At least that is how it seems at the start. She describes her baby as a bean growing at the speed of light, and describes her due date as her harvest time. She also shows a deference to her mother who instructs her, not just about her actions, but about her thoughts, and reinforces the admonishments with slaps to stem her “caterwaulin’.” Then the story gets to the last line and I see that the girl might have been many things, but naive wasn’t one of them.

Madilyn Quinn, “Battlegrounds.” 

N: Another one that lured me in with tantalizing imagery, particularly that of fire: torches arching and glaring, candles flaring. I’m lured in by the unexpected: a mob attacking a church when the stereotype is of a torch-bearing mob led by fanatical priests. The mob bent on destruction while the priest seems to take “turn the other cheek” in praying for them—and leaving the reader to wonder why a mob would be after a priest who seems to “walk the walk”. What landed this one for me, was the final element of surprise: the sword. The end has me wishing I could be there for the ensuing Mass(acre). The idea of Mass as sort of a defensive spell against one’s enemies is an intriguing one.

I: A priest being showered by shards of glass and being attacked by a torch-bearing mob is an image I’m familiar with. This is in contrast with Nancy’s view, yet this story manages to subvert both our views of what it would do, by its masterful telling. It’s easy to feel sorry for the priest at the point where he turns to the prayer candles. The line “Jesus averts his gaze to the sky” is brilliant because at first it looks like a sign of neglect, mirroring Jesus and his father.  By the time the mob floods in, however, and priest draws out his sword, I realise there’s a chance Jesus averted his gaze to avoid witnessing the carnage that would inevitably follow.

Sarah Cain, “Our Country.”

N: The man vs. man conflict serves as a microcosm to the more macrocosmic conflict between cultures. The representatives of the two sides are sharply drawn: the self-important MC, who is immediately signaled as the villain in his arrogant declaration that he has “come for what is his”. He stands against the “woman in soft crimson with a scar puckering her cheek”—and what a description: a history of violence evident, but quietly persisting. This image is reinforced by her words. She turns his implicit accusation on him and asserts that he can approach this conflict with violence, he can claim his ownership, the country will never belong to him.

I: This story is told close to the point of view of the oppressor, so we see what he sees: unfriendly eyes, impassive faces, and hear what he hears: rhythmic chant of women’s voices. That these are the victims of his oppression is implicit in the story, although not expressly declared. Then he strides into the doorway of one of the tin hovels, and his encounter with an old woman unmasks his true identity. Their conversation offers the line where the title, Our Country, is taken from, and it is also where the oppressor gets put in his place.

Becky Conway, “Faithful Servant.”

N: I was struck by the format, one-sided confessionals tracking a nine-month pregnancy. At first, the vocabulary seemed overwrought for a teenager, almost Victorian in its use. Then, I realized she wasn’t using her own words. In her uncertainty and insecurity, she parrots scraps from the Bible and religious language (most likely the language of her her abuser). She says what she’s supposed to say. She behaves the way authority figures (particularly the priest) direct her. The final confession is the first sign she has done something under her own volition, and typical of action long-repressed, this one is destructive in its liberation. The “liberation” is not complete as she continues to employ the somewhat anachronistic, “blood on my hands” to express herself.

I: The “Forgive me” that opens a confession, and the progression of a pregnancy is used repetitively to set up the disturbing narrative in this story. The narrator is asking for forgiveness for another man’s sin, and seems to descend into a deeper state of despair as the birth of her baby becomes more imminent. That is until one month after conception, when she declares that there is blood on her hands. Whose blood? At first I hope it is Father Abraham’s, for that will offer some poetic justice to the story. But the story refuses to end that way, saving an even more disturbing detail for the last.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Richard Edenfield, “Reflections.”

N – This one packs a lot into so small a space. The contrast and commingling of two worlds is dizzying. The surrender of the “ancient tribe” in the first paragraph is echoed by the priest’s personal surrender by the end. Hands shift from industriously working with nature to being “neatly laced”.  Hope for a revival of that old connection with nature sparks in the rawness of the baby’s appearance—weathered wood, fire in the eyes—but the “guillotine” of a steel shutter severs that hope. The priest and his new grandson are locked in the hard, shiny world of reflective surfaces, shut off from the sublimity of nature (“the purple intrusion of erupting dawn”).  Many gems in here, but my favorite line has to be, “A new generation being pronounced by a secret genetic language whispered in each body. Crying could be heard from a room. Learning a new language wasn’t easy.” In itself a beautiful expression of birth and generation, but as part of this story, I imagine the priest having firsthand experience of the difficulty in learning the language of the metropolis.  

I– Attempting to unpack this story properly is like trying to interpret a poem. The lines are simple, but, like good poetry, what that economy does is to open the story to more interpretation. At the surface, an old priest is witnessing the birth of his grandson, but simultaneously, it seems the priest is also witnessing the death of something more. Perhaps it is that of the tribe ‘surrendered’ with antique light from the sun, that is witnessing a new generation becoming forged with unknown hands in unknown places. I could go on and on with the imagery, but I’ll stop here, for every fresh reading offers something new to consider and reflect upon.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Casey Rose Frank, “Passing Down the Mantle” 

N – As a writer, I often regard storytelling as part of a legacy. How tragic, then, to ponder what would become of that legacy were there no audience to receive it. “Passing Down the Mantle” explores that territory—craftily covering a vast territory and in few words. The figurative language weaves the images together: the pregnant girl’s belly as a melon under the villagers’ “hungry eyes”, the sagging grey faces of the houses in keeping with the faces of the inhabitants, even the stories themselves as being fabric woven into the titular mantle. I feel the desperation of the villagers as they strive to tell their stories to the babe before it’s even born. The distillation of their stories into an essential core is beautifully formulated in the move from the three lines of dialogue to an ultimate sentiment: “Remember us”. Then the disparate voices of the people condense into the singular voice of the village itself invoking “hope”.

– The cause of the absence of the children in this story is not revealed, but the melancholia that follows it is shown clearly in just two sentences that make up the second paragraph. The rest of the story shows the implication of the absence of children: the loss of stories. This puts the hope at the start and end of the story into perspective. This is not just about the about the birth of a baby, it is about the survival of stories: the mantle in the title.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Karl A. Russell, “Homecoming.” 

N – After reading this the first time and enthusiastically slotting onto my shortlist, I noted that we didn’t get many gruesome horror pieces at Flash! Friday. I readied myself to defend a zombie baby’s position among the winners, let alone in the top three. Yet, Ife’s shortlist had this one among the top as well. That opening image just throttles me: an umbilicus swollen with sluggish blood and ditchwater. That’s some impactful show, right there. I think my exact reaction was “EWWWWW! And, whoa.” As it went on, the creep factor ratcheted up over the gore. The merging of the grotesque with infant mannerisms (two-stepping the stairs, mewing, snuggling down with the mother) is especially creepy as it inspires pity despite the horror. The figure of the mother is presented as a silver fish sleeping fitfully, apparently her sleep is wracked by guilt.

– Line after line, this story layers one grotesque image on top of the other. Umbilical cord swollen with blood and ditchwater. Big house slumbered like a bloated leech.  Hounds vomited… eyes rolled back in their skulls. Grandfather gruntled… then died… child gave a mew of pleasure. This story managed to shock me with each image without grossing me out. I cringed, and cringed, and cringed, then put it on my shortlist.

And now: for his very first time!! — join me in congratulating our 

DRAGON WINNER

@dazmb!!!

for

“Advice”

N – The intense focus and imagery blew me away. Here we have a consummate model for the power of “show, not tell”. The message here is “Marriage takes work,” but the writer (working through the main character) illustrates the lesson to us as she illustrates it to her daughter, through the work of making fufu. Even without the lesson, the measured action of the woman is compelling, particularly in the way the details establish the rustic setting and the woman’s situation (wodoro, woma, fufu — all deftly posited so that I didn’t need to rush to Wikipedia to figure out what these unfamiliar things are). The opening lines are weighted, as indicated by the woman’s words attaching symbolic significance to the ingredients: fruits of earth and sky. Moreover, we know a lesson is coming because of the title. The careful attention to the work engages me and carries me through the narrative and its beautiful analogy. That the daughter isn’t revealed until the end, in effect, places the reader in the position of the daughter from the first sentence. The reader is meant to nod with understanding right along with her.

– I like how this story uses its form to make up for what cannot be shown in the story. At first, all we’re focused on is the woman pounding the fufu, her focus undiminished, then a camera zooming out of a detail to capture a complete scene, the daughter is brought into view. The time the story itself seems to invest in the act of pounding the yam suggests how much time the mother chooses to invest in her daughter’s marital woes. Also, it seems to equate the tender care it takes to work the dough with the effort the daughter needs to put into making her marriage work. As if by making the daughter watch the raising and dropping of the woma, she was showing her how it is done.

Congratulations, Daz! Please find here your very own, super fancy, freshly built (watch the paint!) winner’s page. Your winning tale can be found there as well as over on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for this week’s Sixty Seconds interview feature! And now here’s your winning story:

Advice

Taking a boiled cassava root, she said out loud “fruit of the Earth”, before placing it in the the woduro.

Reaching for a plantain, “…and fruit of the sky”, then placing it in the woduro too.

Setting to work with the woma, pounding the mixture in silence, her jaw set in concentration.

The sun was high. Sweat began to run freely off her brow.

But her focus remained undiminished, raising and dropping the woma, up and down, up and down, until, gradually, it coalesced, and from the mixing of sky and earth, a fine, almost elastic dough began to form.

With tender care, continuing to work the dough, until, at last the fufu was finished.

Flexing the cramp from her arms, she looked at her daughter.

“The Sun has barely risen on your marriage, my child. Do you understand?”

Her daughter nodded.

“Good,” then smiling, “Do you think it was any different for your father and I? They are both good men. Now go and be reconciled.”

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 3: WINNERS

Tomorrow is the last day of 2014. Time is such a fickle beast. Don’t you remember those long summer days in childhood that stretched on forever and ever, day after eternal, mind-numbing day, and you despaired because you just knew it would never, ever, EVER end?? Then someone flips a switch, and all you can do is shake your head like Grandpa Time saying things like, I Remember the 1990s Like They Were Yesterday and They Didn’t Have Google When I Was a Kid and I Walked to School Uphill Both Ways in Twenty Feet of Snow and Kids These Days.

(Maybe I’m the fickle beast?? Don’t answer that.)

In either case, please accept the heart-deep gratitude of the entire Flash! Friday team for the vital role you played here in 2014. And as for 2015:

May your year be bright and sunny
May your words flow rich and free
May your books make lots of money
May you spend it all on–
[[CHOCOLATE!]] 

PS. A quick note that this week for the HM awards and higher I have linked the winning story titles to the original stories, in case you missed reading them the first time around.

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The Team Four Dragon Captains of Pratibha Kelapure/Sinéad O’Hart say

Sinéad: I was struck, this week, by how many stories dealt with themes like masking, hiding, and beginning afresh, and how creatively the idea of ‘the dragon’ was used. Dragons turned up as dearly longed-for children, as a measure of human strength, as a way of describing mental and physical illness, as guardians and enemies, as bestowers of preternatural gifts whose price is, ultimately, too high, and as ancient beings reborn in new skin. They are seen as beautiful and powerful as often as terrifying and nightmarish, but always treated with respect (naturally!) I loved how masks were used as disguises and as means of salvation, as well as windows into a different and terrifying dimension, and especially how one skilled writer made me smile with a sweet tale of a mask being used as a blessing. Ultimately, choosing a winner was a huge challenge, involving many painful decisions, but every story I read this week gave me something remarkable. Well done, everyone.

Pratibha: Frankly, I was stumped by the prompt. But your creative minds brought out so many themes and characters that it is astounding. Dragon fared quite high on the list (as expected), and so did the new year. Emotions ranged from tender to grotesque and everything in-between.

I would have you know that the judges agreed on most of the stories, except for the winner. We went back and forth a couple of times, and there were no flares thrown, and we quickly came to the conclusion.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Special Mention for Point of View: Peg Stueber, “Who Mourns the Dragon?” We liked this because it’s written from the dragon’s POV, and it has a moving, lyrical quality which is relevant to the tragedies and genocides happening in reality.

Special Mention for Title: Craig Anderson, “Paper Cut.” We thought this idea – that the paper dragons were really all-powerful enemies plotting the takeover of the world – appeared several times this week, but this one was fun. We thought the stroke of sibling rivalry was brilliant too.

Special Mention for Best Use of a Dragon’s Head: Becky Conway, “Protect this House.” We love the name Pog, and this little story made us smile. We particularly enjoyed the detail about having to abandon his favourite pair of socks, and the image of a dragon head dancing down the street without any apparent means of propulsion.

Special Mention for Best Use of a Mask: Annika Keswick, “Hidden in Plain Sight.” This story’s treatment of the idea of the ‘mask’ was used here in an interesting and original way. We loved the rhythm of the language, and the recollection of the injury or accident, and the way it recreated, a wounded dragon falling from the sky.

Special Mention for Best Use of Poetry: Stuart Turnbull, “Moments of Stillness.” Sinéad: I mean, a villanelle? I take a bow to any writer who can craft a poem in this form, so well and so quickly! Pratibha: I loved the title and the repetition of phrases. Of course, anyone who can write a complex form poem on a short notice is worthy of praise.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Brett Milam, The Embers.”

Sinéad: Primarily I like this for the perspective, and for the language, particularly ‘The wiring around your brain was in discarded heaps and more frayed every day,’ and ‘me, Norman… a puddle of uselessness.’ I like how the story begins and ends in the minutiae of domesticity, and the middle section is figurative, imaginative and powerful. I also enjoyed the use of the motifs of light and darkness, the ‘flickering candlelight in the cavernous dark’ almost like a distant dragon, waiting to pounce.

Pratibha: This a dark tale told in a patient and sympathetic voice. The narrator delivers the saddest philosophy with deep understanding and acceptance, “Life wasn’t so neat and predictable. It was more like a flickering candlelight in the cavernous dark.”

KM Zafari, Trophies.” 

Sinéad: I liked the imagery of the dragon’s eyes here, and the power they still wield despite the fact the dragon has been killed. I felt a tug of horror at the revelation that the dragon had been a mother defending her young, and that her mission had been futile. I liked the mention of the villagers, and how the hunter sees himself as the balance between his people being the slayers or the slain, but I also liked the note of uncertainty at the end of the story, when the hunter begins to doubt himself and his worldview starts to shift. As well as the subtlety of the story, it was very well written and expertly paced.

Pratibha: This story highlights a hard-to-swallow truth, “kill or be killed.” How we wish it weren’t so. The most profound line, “They were the same, she and he.” highlights the dilemma of a tortured conscience.  Even though of its philosophical bent, the story has the identifiable structure.

Nancy Chenier, Old Glory.” 

Sinéad: I loved this for the phrase ‘An odd thrum makes my spangles jounce’, because how could you *not* love a story with sort of command of language? I really liked the idea here, that the paper dragon is more than simply a decoration or a symbol of power, but an important being in its own right, and its sense of wounded pride and tired irritation made this story stand out for me. I also liked the progression from humiliation to pleasure, and how the dragon realises that some indignities are worth it for the chance to dance.

Pratibha: I loved the images in this story, “I once shook tempests from my mane” and “bubble-tea-cheeked children.” Once proud dragon reduced to a show puppet, but he will not yield his sanity in the face of humiliation. A very sympathetic character!

Tamara Shoemaker, Masquerade.”

Sinéad: This story is written wonderfully and with an almost dancing rhythm, making me think of a masquerade ball even as I read, which is compounded by the visual imagery created. I loved the idea of people hiding in the crowd afraid to let their flower bloom in case it reveals its vulnerability, and also the perspective created by the viewer being themselves unseen. Another story which deals with masks, and what lies behind them, but done in such a masterful way.

Pratibha: I liked this story for its reflective tone. It is more of a musing than a story, but the tone and the images such as “brilliant colors and flashing lights distracting all others from the fragile wisps of soul-tears” are breathtaking.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Betsy Streeter, “The Invisible Man.” 

Sinéad: I liked this story because it’s totally unexpected and very original, and I enjoyed the title, too – it has layers. Both Stuart and the ‘dragon’ are invisible, in their own way. I loved the idea that Stuart has to invent someone to tell him how important he is because his own family don’t appreciate him, and then I wondered why this is the case – particularly given that Stuart replies ‘I know’ to the dragon’s declaration that Stuart is a ‘diamond’ (perhaps the man is part of the dragon’s hoard? Who knows!) Overall I found the character compelling, and the story world intriguing, and I loved the use of the idea of the dragon as a sort of ‘imaginary friend’ who may, or may not, have Stuart’s best interests at heart.

Pratibha: An antidote to the holiday “family” gatherings. The tone of the story is humorous, but the underlying pain is palpable. There are some gems of phrases, such as “mouth like a switchblade,” and “He inhales the dragon’s breath, exhales the thick living room air.” This story reminded me of Pete’s Dragon, and that made me smile.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Elisa @ Average Advocate, “Hydra’s Dancers.” 

Sinéad: This story’s title was an excellent, and witty, reference to not only the prompt image but also the ‘many-headed’ narrator, who is dealing with conflicting messages from all corners. I particularly enjoyed the way in which the author recreates the visual and auditory disruption the headache causes, and how well it all wraps into a performance, both the dance of the writhing, clashing dragons and finally the gentle whirl of the ballerinas as everything settles into its proper place. Another tale with an unusual take on the prompt image, and a story which made great use of all the senses.

Pratibha: One word, execution. From the opening line to the resolution, the tension builds gradually and unwinds skillfully. This unique take on the prompt left me breathless. The image of the dancers as a collective unit, hydra, as seen through the eyes of an aching head, is painted vividly in the second paragraph. Tension mounts in the third paragraph, as the music reaches the crescendo. I loved the description, “the wings, melded from knives into free-spirited tinsel.” Upon finding the cure for his/her headache, the narrator is relieved and so does the dramatic tension, and the dancers now move “lithe and lovely.”   The skillful use of language and clear story arc put this story high on my list.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Marie McKay, “Gifted.” 

Sinéad: I loved the different perspective in this story. I also loved the piecemeal, forensically focused way the character’s body is described, and the revelation that she is not a son, which makes it begin to spin, slowly, into pain. I particularly loved the way the prompt is used: the dragonish ‘heat’ pouring from the mouth, and the mention of ‘Eve’ (which brings the mind, naturally, to the serpent – or the wyrm/dragon). I loved how the parent (presumably) is described as ‘chewing on the morsels of… half victory… lulled into slumber’, just like any self-respecting hoard-guarding dragon, and the sense of hope at the end, as befits the hero of any tale. This was a memorable, emotional and accomplished piece.

Pratibha:  I loved the gradual disclosure and the expert use of language to tell a familiar yet difficult story.  The feeling of suffocation is brilliantly painted as “neat, little gift boxes.”  Halfway through the story, the big reveal comes, and things begin to fall in place. I loved the phrases, “I damp down the searing disappointment with academic results” and “chewing on the morsels of this half victory.”

And now: for her first time, it’s Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

STEPH ELLIS!!!

for

“Holiday Deals”

Sinéad: This story stood out for several reasons: its unobvious approach, for one, and also its oblique references to the prompt image. The colours in Mr Wilson’s tie, the opening of a mouth, and the ‘bite’ of  a needle like that of a rampaging dragon all chimed so well with the colourful paper masks which were the inspiration for this tale. I loved how the story utilised not only the idea of predator and prey (in true dragonish style) but also the idea of a mask concealing a hidden identity. When it’s all upended at the conclusion, and we learn who the true holder of power in this situation is, I can’t help but lift my hat to a well-crafted piece of flash fiction. This entry not only tells a story, complete and fully formed, but it also unfolds into a larger, hinted-at, world, where little boys have elemental, ancient, all-consuming powers and poor unsuspecting dentists with cruel wives can meet terrible ends.

Pratibha: This story is well-told with a clear story arc and gradual revelation. I liked how the writer weaved the image of the mask into the narrative: the dentist’s mask, his “fish eyes,” and a “garish purple, hideous orange” tie. The character of dentist is brought to life by the observation:  “She must really hate him to give him that, thought Jimmy. And he must really love her to wear it.” The ending is raw and gritty, bringing the irony of “Holiday Deal” in focus.

Congratulations, Steph! Below is your merry and simultaneously creepy winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your very own, brand new winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Holiday Deals

“Open wide.”

Obediently Jimmy’s mouth became a cave, a deep dark chasm for the probe to explore. He kept his eyes fixed on Mr Wilson as the man lowered his masked face towards him, bringing his fish eyes, dead eyes ever closer; a tie, garish purple, hideous orange.

“Present from the wife,” said Mr Wilson, responding to his look.

She must really hate him to give him that, thought Jimmy. And he must really love her to wear it.

“No,” said Jimmy as a needle was produced.

“It’ll stop it hurting.”

“No.”

Mr Wilson paused, disconcerted. “Do you want your mother in here with you?”

“No,” said Jimmy. “I came on my own.”

He opened his mouth wider still. New Year was his favourite time, when the best deals were always made.

Wider. And Mr Wilson fell into the void his wife had begged for, and Jimmy fed on the pain that only flesh and blood could give.

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