Tag Archive | Charles W. Short

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 50: WINNERS

Good morning! Thank you so much for your overwhelming, loving support following Friday’s announcement that I’m closing up shop after December 11’s Flashversary. I’ll have more to say on that over the next three weeks, but today belongs to you; today is not my farewell — not yet –, but Steph & Josh’s (much as you and they are conspiring to keep me in tears for the next three weeks!).

**NOTE!** We still have a couple more global #Spotlight interviews ahead: please join us tomorrow for a trip to Bulgaria with Cindy Vaskova!

And now: a mountain’s height of thanks to Dragon Team Six, Steph Ellis and Josh Bertetta. We should perhaps be a little frightened and/or impressed by the sychronization of your judging thoughts — both of you should probably tuck that away for future use somewhere! It’s been a great honor serving the community alongside you. Thank you for your clever sifting of stories, for your generous comments, for your faithful support of flash fiction and this community in particular. Above all, thank you for contributing your own powerfully unique talents by sharing your stories here. We are so grateful to and for you.


Here are Dragon Team Six’s final comments, crystallized by Steph, who apparently has no respect for my deteriorating supply of tissues:   

SE: I was feeling somewhat sad that my time as a judge was coming to an end at Flash! Friday but then came that bombshell from Rebekah about the closure of the site, an announcement which I must say left me feeling almost bereft.  I’ve just had a scan through the Flash! Friday archives and found my first entry back in October of last year.  I find myself amazed that it’s only a matter of some 13 months and not longer; this particular competition has become such a huge part of my life giving my week a writerly structure that I have followed (more-or-less) religiously.  What will I do?  What will we all do?  Well, we’ll carry on writing as she has trained us so well: we will continue with the familiar (MicroBookends, Three Line Thursday, FlashDogs anthologies, Angry Hourglass) and attempt new pastures.  So the gap will be filled, but it will not be the same.  I do have some more to say to Rebekah, but those words you will find in some of my responses to the stories below.

As it’s my last week I would also like to pay tribute to my partner-in-crime Josh Bertetta.  I know he has been unable to take part this week for personal reasons and I missed our few minutes of haggling across the pond.  And when I say few, I mean few.  Nearly every single time, at least half, if not more, of our choices matched; and where they didn’t, we quite often found that we had similar choices ‘bubbling under’ which allowed us room to manoeuvre.

I would also like to thank my lovely eldest daughter for her efforts in stripping the Flash stories for me, especially as she tends to work late; whether it was Bob Dylan or The 1975, she still managed to wake up not too long before noon and get the stories to me and Josh!  For that I have rewarded her with a Korean Vegetarian cookbook – as you do.

And one more big thank you – to all of you who have provided us with such wonderful stories to read.  Keep writing and submitting.  We will see you here until the finish, and hopefully we will continue across the Flashverse, taking our stories into unchartered territories and cheering each other on.

Now, without further ado, let the drum roll begin …



Brady Koch, “Bougainvillea.” An apparently innocent start to the story, a young man returns home having travelled the world, for what you would think would be a much-wanted reunion with is family.  But instead we are faced with him drawing a plant whose leaf ‘grew out of the long-picked skull of the artist’s father’.  Then we discover that not only is there a skull, but a knife in the rib-cage, put there by our returnee.  Not quite the reunion expected.  Nicely dark.

James Atkinson, “Times Change.” A warning to those who would promote isolationism.  Initially the families were separate enough when their village’s isolation first occurred for there to be no problems in terms of marriage but as time passed cousins married cousins so that eventually all became closely related.  This seems to concern only our narrator.  He recognises that they need ‘another supply drop’ but implies this would be not of goods but of people to refresh and strengthen the gene pool; this latter a good example of showing not telling.

Bill Engleson, “Sweetapple Dodds.” Great pulp fiction tone to the narration of this story.  The agent’s in his office and in she walks ‘Hell, you could smell the country on her’, ‘wiggling her fanny as if she’s revving up for the Indy 500’.  He feels sorry for her but he has an ulterior motive, he ‘could see potential, a tremendous chassis’.  Wonderful language and a fun read.

Firdaus Parvez, “Born With the Devil.” I think everyone imagines twins are born with that unbreakable bond, where one would do anything for the other.  You certainly don’t expect them to be so different that the sister hates her brother to the extent that she would slit her wrists and ensure not only his death, but her own.  Unique take on the bond between twins.



Charles W. Short, “The Captain’s Calling.”

An homage to Flash! Friday (Dragonwraith) and its Captain (Rebekah) and an unashamed placing.  This one is slightly different in that it is the creation of Flash! Friday in a world in which flash was almost an orphan.  She built the ship, which grew larger, was a ‘spokeswoman for her cause’ and developed her vision until other ‘Teams developed, friendships formed, and entirely new classifications of vessels took shape’.  We have all seen how the flash world had grown, we all meet up on other sites, not just on this ship so that now we can give the Captain the freedom to take her own path.  ‘A new calling awaits the captain, and she has the proven courage to undertake it.’

Michael Wettengel, “May-Born.” 

I love the personification of Ambition and Inspiration, those little devils that assail us all but which often never seem to work together, as in this particular story.  Inspiration is intent on wrapping himself up ‘like he’s spinning a cocoon’ whilst Ambition ‘walks and fumes’.  (I will whisper now, I am a May baby so I huff occasionally too).  The deadline hits and they run out of time and Ambition isn’t happy with the rambling end.  But the author walks away to look at the falling snow, as sometimes you have to.

Holly Geely, “Cousin Jackson

Of course I would place a story with a good pun, especially one which worked itself out so easily.  I had no idea it was coming (I mean, a banana plantation in a non-tropical climate?? how did I not see it?) but there it was, waiting, a perfect little gem to be discovered at the end.

Michael Seese, “In Here.”

This trapped me as soon as elephants on shoulders were mentioned.  I knew at this point something crazy was going on, the writing bringing to mind the madness of Carroll’s Wonderland.  The MC, a child, has occasional glimpses of sanity ‘when the mists clear,’ but she cannot leave her world where there are ‘Pixie Stix’ trees and ‘priests in prehistoric garb’ as well as mocking marionettes.  And even though she wants to leave, her mother tells her, ‘You can never leave this place, dear child. Insanity is your home.  Wonderfully crazy.


Nthato MorakabiWhat Child Is This?

The God Delusion!  Casting Dawkins as a priest, working from the inside of religion to subvert its message was a very clever ruse.  Dawkins has pretended to be a priest and foretold the end of the world, indicating certain signs, for example the baby with the pig’s tail would foreshadow it.  The nurse’s message brings him joy, he has been proved right.  But it is a scene he has manipulated (he has no ‘virtue’) by adding chemicals to the water supply so that mutations occur.  He has used science, he had ‘faith’ that science would make these changes.  Now science supplants religion, it has become the new faith.  Nice inversion.


Karl Russell, “One Day, in the Square” 

This is a story about self-belief and self-worth.  There are so many talented people in this world who just never show what they are capable of.  The old man who appears at Juan’s side and gives him such good advice turns out to be the ghost of a musician who’d only just died.  He had been a brilliant guitarist but had never followed the advice he now gave Juan, leading him to his sad ending on the bench by the fountain.  He had wasted his talent and played for the pigeons.  But his ghost returned and hopefully Juan will take his guitar and play to people and not to the birds.  I must admit to a soft spot for this story as I have a son who is a talented guitarist but already he is playing for people.  And to all those of you who think your writing’s not good enough to send out, well, if you’ve been submitting here, you’re definitely good enough – take that step and find your audience.


Mark A. King, “Genesis.” 

How could I not choose something like this considering our Dragoness’ recent announcement? This acrostic builds a true and heartfelt tribute to Rebekah for all her efforts on our behalf.  All of us have fought, as writers, to find our niche, we have all lived ‘in the wilderness’, seeking ‘the lands of promise’, the bookshop windows, we were all ‘alone’.  But she created a place for us, a ‘fortress’ where we could hone our skills and become strong enough to challenge the ‘elite’, where we could make friends and recognise that our own writing has worth.  Through this platform and the support and comments given so freely and generously week in, week out, we have developed to the extent that many are now pushing onwards and upwards, and some have even made it into the bookshop window.  Things are changing indeed, but it is not goodbye.  We no longer need a fortress: we have a world.  This piece was a lovely way for us all to say Thank you, Rebekah.

And now: for her gorgeous, fantastic, stirring FOURTH win, it’s this week’s 




“To Care: More Than Just an Action

A poem has claimed first place this week with a message that needs to be heard on a larger platform.  The army of carers that is out there amongst us is large but invisible: the husbands and wives having to care for both elderly parents and young children, young children caring for parents or siblings, an elderly wife, herself frail having to care for her husband and vice versa.  This army does so much and their efforts go largely unnoticed and unrewarded but they do it even though they are so often at breaking point – ‘She cares/Until she screams’, ‘You care/Until you break’, ‘I care/Until I reach the edge’ – but they always ‘care some more’. 

Short lines, consistent repetition from different viewpoints punch the message home and wrings out the emotions, the feelings that at times seek to destroy the carer .  We are not allowed to be separate from the message of this poem, we are part of it because ‘We. Should.  Care’.  Simple.  Powerful.  Effective.

Congratulations, Marie! Thrilled to see you take your fourth crown this week, which you’ve done and drawn our attention to this underappreciated cause. Thank you so much for sharing this achingly beautiful poem. Here’s your updated winner’s page — a page that includes your winning tales dating back to your very first in Year One (Week 26!!!! darling thing, still here after so long!!). Please watch your inbox for instructions regarding your interview for your fourth #SixtySeconds! And now here’s your winning story:

To Care: More Than Just an Action
*inspired by Carers’ Rights Day in the UK

I care
my hands raw;
my eyes black;
my arms sore;
my hair out.
I care way beyond my own lifetime.

You care
yourself to sleep;
yourself awake;
yourself guilty;
yourself frail.
You care yourself lost.

She cares
herself bruised;
herself hungry;
herself lonely;
herself sick.
She cares herself away.

He cares
himself angry;
himself gaunt;
himself blunt.
He cares himself blue.

They care
themselves invisible;
themselves insular;
themselves inadequate.
They care to the quick.

I care
until I can’t, and then I care some more.
You care
until you cry, and then you care some more.
She cares
until she screams, and then she cares some more.

I care
until I reach the edge, and then I care some more.
You care
until you break, and then you care some more.
He cares
until he says he won’t, and then he cares some more.

I care
You care
She cares.
He cares.
They care.
And us?

We. Should. Care.



Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 39: WINNERS

Most of you didn’t know Beth Peterson, my sweet friend and former Flash! Friday writer & judge who passed away a few days ago. But it occurred to me today, when thinking about what I wanted to say to you, that in many ways Beth was just like many us. Her physical struggles with various disorders were tremendous, but she suffered them in silence. The last story she wrote here (link) was for the 1984 prompt, a tale about conniving to save the world. I can tell you, since she never would, of the great pain tormenting her on a daily basis, and what it cost her to write even this little story. 

A lot of you are in pain too. You share your amazing stories here, but you can’t always talk about your illnesses, or addictions, or what you’re going through. Clearly that’s a limitation/disadvantage of a public forum like this in which we’re (rightly cautiously!) getting to know each other.

So today’s winners’ post is dedicated to you. Thank you for sharing your hearts and brains and awesome senses of humor here. Thank you for daring vulnerability. Thank you for your support of each other, your beautiful tributes to Beth, your love expressed so generously to me. Thank you for making Flash! Friday the wonderful family it is. I am in your debt.


Join us tomorrow for another fabulous Spotlight interview, this time with our own Pratibha, who will be chatting with us all about her latest venture, the lit mag The Literary Nest. You won’t want to miss it! Not to mention her interview is very interesting timing, as you shall soon see.


Finally, heaps of thanks to Dragon Team Six, Josh Bertetta & Steph Ellis, for their hard work this round. How on earth they managed to choose winners is beyond me! Steph shares their opening thoughts today:   

Oh, what a wealth of stories this week.  The elements that could be incorporated seemed to strike a chord with so many of you, particularly the image of a besieged city.  We had warriors, refugees, beauty, death and loss.  And I will admit now to those that wrote their own personal tributes to the late Beth Peterson that I was freely resorting to tissues.  To make someone laugh or cry, groan or shudder merely by putting pen to paper is real power.  This shows the power of words, of your words.  Thank you for sharing them with me. 

Once again many thanks to my daughter Bethan for her efforts in getting the stories to me.



Most DangerousA Beautiful Face-Off by Brian S. CreekSE: From the dizzying heights of world adoration this year’s model falls into an abyss as she is supplanted by a younger, prettier version.  Initially you feel for her, admire her raising herself up again; but then that final sentence packs its punch, she’s ‘going to take that bitch’s face away’. JB: Vanity, envy, pride all wrapped up in this fast moving piece about the perception and influence of beauty in a consumer culture. And then that delicious little end, when the title takes on a whole new meaning!

Best Metaphor: Combination Lock by Charles W. ShortSE: Describing the woman in terms of a fortress dressed in cotton and lace and with the main tower a ‘tapestry of ebony locks’, its deadlights her eyes, was cleverly done.  Many had assailed her, only to be defeated by words, looks and more physical means.  To mount a successful invasion required ‘courage, commitment and self-sacrifice’, this was her combination lock. JB: Have to give two big thumbs up for the best use of metaphor this go around, from the physical description of the most beautiful woman in the world to her psychology. Love and war wrapped up nice and tight.

Best FarewellSupersouls by Firdaus ParvezThe second tribute piece we have placed this week. Such a sad image of a defeated writer kneeling, ‘head bowed over a broken wooden sword and a tattered paper shield’.  Yet I need not remind anyone here that when no more words can come, what has already been written remains for us still. The band on her hand, her Ring of Fire, sends her dragon flying, sets her free.  Lovely farewell. 

Best Victory: In Passing by Tamara Shoemaker. JB: Is this a tale of war and siege, or is it a tale of overcoming some inner turmoil, of “man against himself?” SE: Although this was not directly mentioned, I have read this story as another tribute piece to Beth.  Depicted purely in terms of a dying tower, every single line can be seen in terms of the knowledge of loss, of the pain of parting.  Elegant, subtle and once more, beautiful. And this is the line I will finish my judging comments on; after all, there is nothing else to say:

Fast, fast into the rising light you go, a chariot on the wings of the dawn.



Marie McKay, The View From Here.”

SE: When one light at the top of a tower block goes out, all light is extinguished ‘leaving rows … of blind eyes’.  An introduction that immediately tells you something is wrong.  Those who can see, look up; they do not want to ‘observe the carpet of corpses’.  A family is trying to survive. Thankfully the baby is quiet.  This is the imagery of an apocalyptic future caused by panic and doom mongering, not by anything tangible.  A grim warning for us all.

JB: A poignant piece for the point in our human history when so much fear mongering abounds. The baby sleeps, the baby is at peace, for the baby knows no fear. Fear is created, says the author. Fear is used by others to convince and control. It is not something outside oneself—not the guns, not the disease, not the undead—that brings our end. It is what is inside of us, fear. Fear, the opposite of love. And with so much fear spewed forth from those in power, those in the media, and those out on the campaign trail, I can only hope that this piece is somehow not, in some sense, prophetic.

Eliza Archer, “Immortal Beloved.” 

SE: Beauty can fuel many an obsession and the narrator of this story is utterly in thrall to the object of his desire which he intends to obtain at ‘any price’.  Friends try to deter him but he will not be dissuaded.  Throughout, he repeats how he has to have this woman, will brook no failure, it is fate, it is his destiny.  You know this man is already lost, even before his friends, his job and his liberty all vanish.  Yet despite this he had one hour, he had his ‘Mona Lisa’ smile.  Nicely done.

JB: Here’s a piece of flash with the classic twist at the end. You sit there, reading, following along, figuring you have an idea where the story is going and when that end comes, you sit there and maybe, like I did, smile, much like the subject of the twist itself.

@dazmb, “Becoming.”

SE: A gently misleading start to a story that eventually packs a powerful punch.  Sunlight and dust motes paint a peaceful picture, but she ‘eases’ herself to the bathroom.  Something is wrong, there is pain there.  ‘Today will be a good day.’ Who tells themselves that except those who are suffering and trying to turn their lives around?  The man, excused by her need for money to buy the drugs indicated by the needle.  The repetition about becoming a better person indicating she will change, she has ‘no choice’.  But does this mean she has no choice but to change or will the drugs give her no choice but to continue – you decide.

JB: There is an elegance in the imagery’s simplicity here and it puts me right there in the story. I can see all of it as it unfolds. They story of a young woman whose life up to this point has, how shall I say it, not been all that…healthy. But she stands there, dialoguing with herself, becoming stronger as she realizes what she must do she must do only for herself.

Richard Edenfield, “Helen of Troy and the Anti-War Love Song.”

SE: This story was pure poetry.  A lyrical telling with so many gorgeous images evoked in such an extraordinary manner.  In particular : ‘Body of her water joined like a record album rippling out in grooved seance. Not science. A turntable of air you balance on and sing.  Sample lovers with a kiss, food for potential devouring. I wait turn at soft guillotine.’  Those two paragraphs alone are perfection.

JB: Recalling the reason why the Greeks went to war with the Trojans, this little story, chalk full of poetic metaphor (each a story in its own right), turns the Iliad’s reason for war and tells us that mutual recognition is the way to peace.


Foy S. Iver, “Let Me Not Die Ingloriously.”

SE: I loved this very moving tribute to Beth Peterson, sadly a lady I was never able to compete against (being a relative newcomer) but who, it was clear, stood tall, both in the real world and our flash universe.  How else to say goodbye, to describe the final parting except via the medium of flash?  It was the poignancy of the analogy between a besieged city and a failing human body that tugged at my emotions as did the continuing dialogue between the friends and family at her side as they accompanied her on that last journey.  They told stories, played music, talked to her, wrapping her in their love whilst inside her body’s own defences slowly failed.  I don’t want to discuss in detail the imagery used – except that it was expertly done –  it would make my comments too clinical, too analytical.  Now is not the time for that. Now is the time to pay tribute to a true testament of friendship.  Warm.  Touching.  Beautiful.

JB: The inevitable is on in this, to me an almost psychedelic tale, conjuring a myriad of images from medieval to modern times. A chaotic piece (from jazz to funk to electronica) for a chaotic time yet there is a stillness in it brought about by the one constant voice, a reassuring voice. It is the calm of the hurricane for which the violence about them cannot disturb.


Rasha Tayaket, “Glory” 

SE:  A story telling a truth that only a heroic warrior knows – the real price of Glory. To the world ‘Glory’ is when stories of his deeds are told, mothers name their children in his honour and he is lauded by the gods.  This is the veneer of Glory.  But as it goes on, what the warrior suffered to achieve this status, what lies beneath the heroic veneer, is slowly revealed.  Through repetitive use of those first opening sentences at the start of each subsequent paragraph, the writer has created the perfect framework and a steady rhythm for the warrior to develop his tale, to tell his truth, reinforcing as it does the contrast between the external gloss and the internal ‘mortal suffering’.  Slowly his Glory is weakened, first by Pain, then by Fear, until at last Death arrives; the bell finally tolls for him and Glory no longer has any value.  Lovely writing.

JB: While there is no plot (I myself don’t require plot in flash), here is another great piece where the larger story is behind the story, where the “story” is simultaneously built upon and deepened with each subsequent paragraph. From Glory in the first, to Glory and Pain in the second, to Glory and Pain and Fear in the third, each addition nuances what precedes it; we move from simple hero worship, to the hero’s actual experience, that which celebration of the hero tends to forget and neglect: pain and fear. Pain and fear, two experiences all human being share. Whereas heroes may be celebrated as something other, something beyond pain and fear, our forgetting that they too experience pain and fear makes us miss what it means to be a hero. Pain and fear equalize us, and in the end of our story comes the greatest equalizer of all.


Tamara Shoemaker, “Cold Comfort.” 

SE: Oh, so beautiful and yet so world weary!  She treats being the most beautiful woman in the world as a job almost – ‘somebody has to do it’.  Throughout this story there are some terrific uses of imagery, all adding up to complete the picture of a jaded beauty.  She is tired of being admired, regards herself as a ‘slab of beef in the marketplace’, just another commodity to be examined, perhaps purchased.  She is tired of their singing, their dancing, their mandolin playing – sounding like a ‘chicken that squawks with each tug’ (loved the humour of that image).  Yet she feels separate to their courting, they are not quite the ardent suitors they proclaim to be, none ‘scale the walls’ to be with her and she can only listen to their laughter which ‘tickles the air’, witness their comradeship which carries on below.  The warmth of the atmosphere amongst these men is in stark contrast to the coldness of her place up on her pedestal.  But it is not just the men who have put her there because of her beauty, she is there because of her own vanity, ‘there is only room for one in the mirror’.  Initially she made herself out to be a victim because of how she was perceived by others but in reality it is she who is keeping herself separate.  Very tight writing to produce a perfectly penned portrait. 

JB: The stories detached tone underscores the protagonist’s aloofness as she sits alone resting on her balcony. The author’s choice of metaphor—likening the woman to a slab of beef in the marketplace—and one of her suitors—a chicken that squawks—dehumanizes the story’s nameless players. I found in “Cold Comfort” a tale not simply about vanity, of which the beautiful woman accuses herself, but a poignant commentary on social values. Is vanity the “fault” of the vain, or is it something else? Is vanity likewise the result of social values as it appears when the woman’s suitors dance and sing for her and she grooms herself for the masses? When society values the beautiful and puts beauty and image on a pedestal, what becomes of relationship? Our author tells us those who seek the beautiful for the simple sake of beauty become shadows, losing, again, what makes us human.

And now: for her second time, but first since August 2014, it’s faithful FF writer & litmag editor,




“The Pink Dawn

SE: Words cannot always adequately express what is happening in our world today.  Report after report has filled newspaper columns with their focus on economic migrants battling authorities in Calais to get to the UK or from Greece to Germany causing much disquiet in these countries.  Yet amongst that flood of people were the refugees whose story was being forgotten – until the recent tragedy of the Syrian child whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach.

Like the photograph, this story brings home the horror of the current situation in a fresh way, opening jaded eyes and, perhaps, jaded minds to the more terrible aspects of this modern day exodus. 

Told in a child’s voice, the narrator’s continued innocence of what is going on around her, contrasts strongly with the horror of her situation.  The child asks questions and is hushed, she and her sister are held ‘warm and snug in Mama’s hug’.  They are not told who the rebels are or why things are happening. Their parents are still trying to keep them children, still protecting them, so much so that throughout this story you sense how completely loved and secure that child feels.  The world is her friend, she delights in that first blush of dawn, the warmth of her mother’s arms.  She is safe, feels no threat – until they get into the overcrowded boat. 

In those last few sentences, all the safety, all the innocence is finally lost.  She is noticing all the people around her, the pushing and shoving, the feeling of water beneath her feet, seeing her sister floating in the water.  She doesn’t know her sister is dead, but we do.  Just as when the child says she is ‘ice-cold’, we know what will happen to her.  There is no need to add anything else; use of stark, simple language without falling into the trap of sentimentality make the ending more effective, packs a more powerful punch.   A topical tragedy written with the lightest of touches.

JB: We’ve probably all seen the pictures of the refugee child dead on the beach and in this topical piece. Recalling much more than it tells, this heart-wrenching tale takes us from the comfort of being held by mother, to hope and the future with school. But here is an innocent child, ignorant as a child can be of larger social/political/religious processes outside him/herself over which s/he has no control and yet the child’s life (and what remains of it) is determined by those very processes. Much too sad, much too real.

Congratulations, dear Pratibha! Please find here your freshly updated, super sparkly winner’s page. Your winning tale can be found there as well as (shortly) over on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this week’s Sixty Seconds feature. And now here’s your winning story:

The Pink Dawn

“Papa, it’s too dark. I can’t see anything.”

“Just hold on to Mama. Quick. The boat will leave without us if we are not there soon.”

I clutch Mama’s dress, and she pulls me up. I am propped on her hip and Sheena is snuggled against her chest in a knapsack. We are warm and safe in Mama’s hug. Mama isn’t crying now. Her face is stern like when she wants us to focus on our homework. The school is closed. Mama says the rebels took over it. I don’t know what rebel means. She just hushes me if I ask.

Mama and Papa walk for hours in the dark, and then the dawn opens her eyes, and they are all pink. It’s nice! I am warm in Mama’s hug.

I’ve never seen so many people. They push and shove.

Water’s under my toes. Is that Sheena floating? I’m ice-cold.


Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 23: WINNERS

Thanks for joining us at the after-party! A reminder we’ve already had THREE Fridays in May (?! how is that possible?!), which means you may be eligible for the May #RingofFire badge. Details here at the Wall of Flame page. 

Come back on Wednesday for our weekly, non-judged writing prompt and chatfest, Warmup Wednesday! Y’all, I’m so crazy about this low-pressure event and the chance to get to know people better. We’d love to have you join us.


Dragon Captains Eric Martell/Carlos Orozco say: Dozens and dozens of fascinating takes on prompts that don’t go together at first glance – the Native American in the photo has no business in what we think of as downtown. To make it work and tell a story which unified the concepts in a nuanced and insightful way took skill, and you didn’t disappoint.

Special note from the judges to the authors: After our initial pass through the stories, the two of us ranked our top ten and we put the lists together – there were 18 stories that one or the other of us ranked in our top ten. So many stories speak to different people in different ways – if yours isn’t on this list, it’ll be on another list soon. Keep writing!



Tony Amore, “Nightway.” 

We loved the scene of the November light tricking him. It really sets up the whole story. You have a man distressed over his son’s accident wandering the streets not knowing what time of day it is or what is going on. It’s as if he is in a physical limbo, waiting for the news. Then he has the conversation with the dancer. This conversation gives him perspective on the situation; then the buzzing phone brings him back into the real world.

Tamara Shoemaker, “Weathered.” 

The narrator tells the story of the weathered Indian figurine that became the landmark of the town. The city plans on tearing the figurine down, and we are shown how the narrator feels about it. We are never told outright, but we see through the face of the Indian figurine the things the narrator feels. The last haunting image of the figurine dripping moisture from his cheeks really cements the story in our minds.

Betsy Streeter, Balance.” 

There is so much character building in this story that you feel like a connection to the girl, and her father, and the men outside the liquor store – you can see them, you can hear them, you know them. She’s coming up on womanhood, a mix of innocence and unwanted knowledge, struggling to find balance not just on her dad’s bike, but in life. A truly wonderful piece that didn’t quite integrate the story themes well enough, but will linger on for a very long time.

Charles W. Short, “Fool’s Contest.” 

A lovely, light-hearted piece, full of evocative images and relationship building, plus a nice bit of flirtation. And then an ending line that casts it all in a different light. In the United States, at least, we’re fighting a lot of battles with ourselves about the appropriateness of using Native American imagery in advertising, athletics, etc. Is it okay for MacDonald to wear a kilt and not for Tahoma to wear Zahadolzha’s headdress? A deft touch pulls you in and then makes you think.


Margaret Locke, “Ignorance Is Bliss.” 

We paint the past as a place of innocence, but maybe it’s just our youth. We know the boy here, and we know the world he grew up in. In so few lines, we see the father and his love for his son. We see the son’s worship of his father. We see childhood embraced and childhood destroyed. Were we better off in that “simpler” time, when ignorance was bliss, or if we made poor decisions because we didn’t know enough. The author does a wonderful job of bringing us through different time periods and telling the story of a life gone awry.


Jessica Franken, “Everything’s Waiting for You.”

We clearly weren’t the only ones who read the theme of Downtown and heard the recently departed Petula Clark’s voice ringing through our head, but we certainly didn’t imagine the wonderful angle this story took. And yet…there was something deeper and darker that slowly snuck out at us. Flora (what an evocative name, both in referencing the period of the titular song and bringing to mind the slow decay of flowers in the city) is connected to her great grandfather in a believably magical way. There’s layers here, of magic, of life in the modern world, of death beyond death. So much story in 200 words.

Andrew Laidlaw, “Chief.”

This piece stood out because of tone, voice, and character. After we were finished reading it, it didn’t seem like the character was someone from the story but rather someone we knew or a friend of a friend. This is very difficult to do in novels and almost impossible to do in flash, but here we have the guy known as chief. Through his voice the entire story has that sad humorous tone, which is reminiscent of Sherman Alexie’s work.  Bad things happen to the character (he says he is beaten up, works a job he is terrified of doing, etc.) but the way he says them supplants the gloom of the situation with humor.

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





This piece jumped out at us immediately by its simple originality. What seems like a drug trip at first glance, evolves into a modern day vision quest. The vision quest is an approach to the prompt that very few people (if any) took. What worked best for the piece was that the writer does not tell us this outright, but rather shows us this through the words. Instead of telling us everything was a blur, the writer shows us “the gray sidewalk nestled between the gray skyscrapers and gray street.” We also liked the circular nature of the piece. It starts out talking about droplets of rain making rivers on the widow (in that great showing, not telling way) and ends with the voice in the character’s head telling her “No river can return to its source, yet all rivers must have a beginning.” That circular approach is hard to accomplish in flash fiction without seeming too repetitive, but this writer does an excellent job. In the end, we are left with a feeling that something monumental has happened, but neither we nor the character can grasp its full consequence. Wonderful job.

Congratulations, Ashley! Here’s your brand new (careful, it’s hot!) winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me asap here so I can interview you for Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story:

The Journey

I watch the droplets trail down the window from inside my boyfriend’s car. The water makes rivers across the glass, distorting the gray skyscrapers.

We’re tripping on shrooms.

I know, I know, we shouldn’t be driving. I told my boyfriend this, so that excuses my own irresponsibility. I nod at the skyscraper as if they can nod back in agreement. The festival is downtown, so downtown is where our journey takes us.

Plus, the shrooms haven’t even kicked in yet. We’ll not entirely.

We pull into a spot. My boyfriend slides his hand into mine as we walk along the gray sidewalk nestled between the gray skyscrapers and gray street. The rain soaks our hair and clothes and leaves me with the desire to twirl on the sidewalk, so I do.

“What is a rain dance when it’s already raining?” A man asks me from inside my own mind. It’s a gravelly voice and for a moment I smell campfire smoke.

My thoughts flutter, from gray to vivid, colorful images. As we approach the festival, the man’s voice returns, the shrooms kick in. “No river can return to its source, yet all rivers must have a beginning.”

I nod with the man in my head and enter the festival.