Tag Archive | Dr. Magoo

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 31: WINNERS

HAAAAAAPPY Monday! A pleasure to see you back here for the medal party! Always exciting times here, finding out which stories struck our noble judges’ fancies this past round. And what a round it was! I’m STILL giggling from Brian Creek‘s “Chuck’s Five” with Chuck, Fat August, Indigo, Teller, and Pepper. (That’s Charlie, Augustus Gloop, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teavee, and Veruca Salt in brilliant parodic form, of course), Geoff Holme‘s “Ian, Diana, Jonas and the Lost Dark,” and former dragon captain Eric Martell‘s untitled dialect piece (“‘e’s wonky, ‘e is”).  And clever J.M. gave us hungry adolescent dragons (!) with a craving for patricide in “It Will Change Your Life.” … And goodness, Clive Tern‘s richly dark twist on a ticket winner’s motivations (“I’m gonna mash their smug faces in, and win”), and Marie McKay‘s vivid take on synesthesia, both still follow me. 

Also loved srof2eeing bunches of new writers join us this week — and beloved old writers stop by (here’s looking at you, Karl Russell & Allison Garcia!). Reminder to all regulars, and those about-to-be-regulars (because we all know, SIGH, just how addictive the #flashfiction circuit is!) — don’t forget to track your participation here at Flash! Friday: if you write stories at least three Fridays in a month, your name can go up on the Wall of Flame. Each month you’re on the WoF nabs you a chance at the jackpot of prizes at year’s end. Details here!

{{Note: quick housekeeping reminder that parodies and derivatives of public domain stories (e.g. fairy tales) are allowed, but otherwise please use your own characters & world when telling stories; writing with copyrighted characters could get us all in a heap o’ trouble. Thanks for your cooperation!}}      

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Judging for us this round was Dragon Team Six, Steph Ellis & Josh Bertetta. Wish I could’ve heard some of those arguments! Though they didn’t send out for emergency bandages or chocolates, so perhaps we’re still all right…?? Thanks to both of you for your time & thoughts this week! Here’s what they have to say:

A real confection of wonderful tale-telling was tossed at our feet this weekend in honour of one of the greatest children’s books ever.  For a first-time judge in this dragon’s lair, this was a nerve-wracking event but one I thoroughly enjoyed.  It feels strange that I haven’t been part of Flash! Friday for a year yet, but here I am judging.  When I first discovered this site, I was somewhat overawed by the sheer quality of the writing – and, I must confess – I still am.  But the comments have always been kind and supportive and this has driven me on to try harder every week and I hope that those who are new to this site will find this true for them.  I have a reputation for darkness but your tales don’t have to involve blood and guts, they just have to be good stories.  And they were.

A big thank you also needs to go out to Deborah Foy and my [Steph’s] lovely (insomniac) daughter Bethan for ensuring that Josh and I received our entries ‘blind’.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best Title: Geoff HolmeIan, Diana, Jonas, and the Lost Dark.” SE: Oh that wonderful title, and the sinister Germanic overtones which only serve to heighten the humour.  Mönions for Minions in particular was a brainwave.  Wonderful. JB: A wonderful use of dialogue to build tension—so much so that the action is quite incidental to the story. I read it as a parable about corporate exploitation of childhood hopes and dreams.

Best Use of Song: Mark A. KingSweet Muzak.” SE: For song-inspired writing, titles cleverly woven together to seamlessly form a story.  Bonus points for including one of my favourite U2 songs.  Lyrically lovely. JB: A delightful incorporation of numerous pop-culture references. I feel like I am on one a quiz show: can you name them all?

Best Homage: Mark Morris, “Wonkered.” SE: A true homage to Dahl, from character names to the idea of a moral delivered in a uniquely dark manner; the children literally are what they eat.  Terrific homage to a great author. JB: Tragic and ironic, here we have three human ourobori (or is it ouroboruses?) whose desire blinds them from the glaringly obvious.

Most Poignant: Allison Garcia, “Hershey’s Chocolate, Hershey’s Chocolate, Hershey’s Chocolate Woooorld.” SE: They say there is nothing greater than a parent’s love for a child and this story provides a perfect example, deflecting awkward questions in order to protect their son from harsh reality.  Delicate writing.  JB: A poignant expression of the suffering a parent holds deep in his/her breast to shield his/her child.

Best Huggable Programming: Phil Coltrane, “Manufactured Peace.” SE: Everything about Paxbot is programmed, from his emotive subroutines to his neural circuitry.  But Paxbot is more than code.  He has a sense of self-belief, he ‘yearns’ like a human to become called a child of God. I want to give Paxbot a hug. JB: One heck of an interpretation of the prompt, here is the story of a robot, who through programming is able to bring to humanity what it has long yearned. And still, there is something missing…

 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

David Shakes, “I Don’t Like the Sound of That.” 

SE: Usually we are fed horrific stories about the dental health of the poor, whilst newsfeeds and pictures reinforce the perfect smiles of the wealthy.  However this norm is inverted in Charlie’s world, the ability to afford sweets being the privilege of the wealthy, as, bizarrely, is the resulting tooth decay.  The children of the rich go round happily displaying ‘gap toothed grins and bleeding gums’ because it shows their status; unlike Charlie who keeps his mouth firmly closed to prevent anyone noticing his poverty.  Pride is truly a strange creature.  A nice twist but a sad commentary.

JB: A terrific story of reversals of expectation symbolized in the teeth of the poor kids and the rich kids where the impoverished would rather hide his straight teeth than reveal his poverty. So desperately wanting to fit in, he would rather keep a straight face than smile; he can’t just be a kid in a candy store.

Craig Anderson, “‘What Goes Around.”

SE: Sympathies are immediately raised in the opening sentence with a reference to ‘the crippled kid’ but ‘He really looks the part’ is a telling sentence, cluing you in that all is probably not what it seems.  The tragedy is that the boy does become what he pretends to be when he gets run over, by, ironically, an ambulance.  The last sentence reveals the humanity of the other hustler, he can ‘no longer confront the kid in the wheelchair’, because this time the boy is truly a deserving cause.  Karma in action.

JB: Oh that karma is, a…well, you can fill in the blank, and what happens to the kid in the wheelchair is indeed tragic. I can only wonder—karma being karma—what, in addition to his own guilt, lies in store for the protagonist.

Clive Tern, “It’s All About Winning.”

SE: This is a story about someone prepared to grab hold of any and every chance he gets.  He looks down on those whose ‘mental arms are too short to grab the chances that flutter past their tiny little existences’.  They are not worthy, he however will grab a chance and wring out every benefit, even if it reduces others to tears, even if he has to offer violence.  Winning is all.  Winning is everything.  Well done.

JB: Oh, our competitive, dog-eat-dog society where those who lack the vision miss their golden opportunities (or in this case, tickets), while others, like this story’s protagonist (is he really?) has enough vision to see his opportunity—in this case, theft. You have to do what you have to do, after all, to get ahead — for ours is a society that loves its winners.

 

THIRD RUNNER UP

Jeff Stickler,Six.” 

SE: A life taken over by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is no life at all.  This is the tragic conclusion that our character comes to as he struggles through yet another day where every action has to be performed six times.  Nights give him no respite, insomnia strikes as he dreads ‘another day of sixes’.  It all becomes too much and he does not count out his medication for the simple reason he has swallowed them all, there will be no more days of sixes, no more days at all.  Desperation has driven him to seek a tragic respite.  Thoughtful, though ultimately grim, description of a tortured soul.

JB: Painful to read, but exquisite to do so over and over again. Perhaps I read it six times. Here is the story of — what most would call — an individual with mental illness, the harsh reality of mental illness and the extreme measures some will go. I sense an element of social commentary here, which I appreciate, for this individual lives in dire financial circumstances and I, as the reader, in filling in the gaps in the story, wonder if his poverty prevents him from getting the help he needs, feeling, in the end, there is only one way out.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “The Troll ‘Neath the Towers.” 

SE: In the daytime our troll is a normal person, smiling, charming, a pleasure to know but … in his home he becomes something else, hiding behind ‘proxy servers, fake identities and cloud accounts’.  Every day he casts his net to catch, latch, onto anyone who has suffered, anyone who has any ideas or beliefs, anyone at all that he feels he can abuse and insult in any way, inflict pain in more than fifty shades, delighting in the hashtag #AskELJames.  He is addicted and he knows it, pain ‘calls him like Meth’, soothes his dreams, keeps him content.  Even in his poverty, he is the kid in the sweet shop and you would never know him, he could be sat next to you now.  Definitely a tale for our times.

JB: Upon reading the title, I figured I would be reading about those good old trolls of folklore and myth, but reading—pleasantly (or perhaps unpleasantly) surprised, I read a story not about those trolls with which I am well familiar, but trolls much more sinister, those who hide in the cyber sphere. Here is an individual full of hate, seemingly choosing anyone and everyone, firing “insults at both sides” who, despite his apparent poverty spends “all his riches” on technology to spread his malice, malice born of pain, and for whom trolling the internet is an almost cathartic experience.

FIRST RUNNER UP 

Foy S. Iver, “Dr. C’s Freak Show.” 

SE: The poor girl has paid the price of youthful folly but it is wonderful to see how much hope she has for her premature baby and her desire for a future full of life.  She stands up to the midwife with her ‘righteous scorn’ whose God is a harsh God, subverting the message about loving all regardless of who/what they are.  There is no love or compassion in this midwife’s God, there is actually more in the girl herself, young though she is.  Her baby with its ‘fighting heart’ deserves a chance and she’s determined to give it her.  Tragic and inspirational at the same time.

JB: A surreal, carnivalesque, almost (in my mind) sci-fi, juxtaposition of a mother’s love for her child, her fight for her child matched by the baby’s own fighting heart. This in the context of a mid-wife who, despite claiming “God’s will is perfect,” condemns the young mother with her self-righteous indignation. Here is a woman with eyes of granite, who would rather fight over the baby—all two pounds of her—than act with compassion for arguably that which is most fragile in the world whereas the young mother, though she has nothing, relies on God’s help rather than resting upon dogmatic principles as does the midwife.

And now: welcome and whoop and holler for first-time

DRAGON WINNER

SYDNEY SCROGHAM!!!

for

The Choice

SE: Opening with the line “I’m no good for you”, you almost expect the rest of the story to be doom, gloom and disaster.  And yes there is some of that, but it is also an uplifting tale of the power of love to overcome all suffering.  Between this first line and the last the woman reminds herself why she is with him.  There is extreme hardship and poverty with their ‘shack outside the city’, the ‘dumpster diving for food’ and ‘stealing ibuprofen so our kid didn’t die from fever’ but she does not dwell on that as he speaks.  She shoulders those burdens willingly, accepts them because he is her soulmate, if she had not chosen him her ‘soul would wither away’ and that is something she could not bear – everything else pales into insignificance.  And in all this, her ‘poor boy from downtown’ understands the sacrifices she has made, recognises that she’s ‘the best thing to ever happen’ to him.  Fluent writing that tugs at the emotions.

JB: “The Choice” is a story of expectation, disappointment, relationship, love, economics, heartbreak — all in one of this week’s shortest (if not the shortest) stories. Here is a man feeling unsure of himself, his esteem and sense of worth rooted in his sense of poverty while his partner — through whose thoughts the reader learns of their dire situation — makes her choice based on feeling rather than reason. Love, the narrator lets the reader know, is, for all intents and purposes, irrational and when it comes to love such as this — a soul-love — there is really no choice at all. Chalk full of gut-wrenching images of poverty, “The Choice” reminds me of the times when things seem dire and there is a loss of hope, when love is in the heart, thinking and “common sense” are secondary.

Congratulations, Sydney! Here’s your brand new (DON’T SIT DOWN, PAINT’S STILL WET!) winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. On a personal note, it’s a pleasure to see another one of my own magnificent Shenandoah Valley Writers on that wall!!! (Note for anyone who’s suspicious; judging is blind and done by the dragon captains, not me.) Sydney, please contact me here asap so I can interview you for Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature! And now, here’s your winning story:

The Choice

“I’m no good for you.”

When he said that to me, I wasn’t thinking about living in a shack outside the city, dumpster diving for food, or stealing ibuprophen so our kid didn’t die from fever. I wasn’t thinking about torn jackets, sockless toes, or begging for a few laundromat coins.

I was thinking about how my soul would wither away if we really said good-bye right now.

I choose this lifestyle because I choose him. Every day. I open my eyes and the one poor boy from downtown stirs beside me, turns over, and whispers in my ear.

“You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 30: WINNERS

AWESOME AWESOME work, y’all. Despite the huge number of draggins traveling this past weekend (or who conked out early, not naming any names, A.J.), y’all still managed nearly five dozen spectacularly convicting (heh heh) tales of justice and/or vengeance and/or Napoleon. And what a riot those tales were. Beautiful, tragic, funny, terrifiying — a little like us, maybe, eh??

And speaking of beautiful, a special mention here for our own Voima Oy, who found inspiration in Phil Coltrane‘s flash fiction-style interview for his 5th win this past week, and wrote her own secret, gorgeous rendition just because. LOVE.    

rof2RING OF FIRE!!!! Since we ran late flinging out the #RingofFire badges for May & June, I’m just now about to update the Wall of Flame. Did you write for FF at least three times in May and/or June? Let me know asap to keep (or put!) your name on this stunning list. Details here!       

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Judging for us this round was Dragon Team Five, Holly Geely & Foy Iver. SO FUN having this new panel sifting through your glorious tales; can’t wait to get to know each team better as the next rounds unfold. 

Before handing out tiaras, Holly & Foy say:

HG: Good morrow, fellow writers; you have moved me with your display of talent, creativity, and pun-mastery. I was hoping for a bit of silliness and was not disappointed. I am honoured to have this opportunity to present winners, and look forward to the next adventure.

FI:  The inaugural Friday of a new format and look you all, dragony wings unruffled, laying gems at our feet! And is there something in the air? Death, annihilation, and mayhem must be on vacation with optimism and humor filling in; the body count was pleasantly low. While reading, I was swept along in swashbuckling tales of swapped identities, hilariously antithetical ghosts doomed to haunt the same grounds, brooding revenge fantasies–and some not so brooding! And each one laudable for its own traits. The stories standing here are those that demanded to be recognized, succulent, singular, and not soon forgotten.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best Use of Random French: Emily ClaytonBrothers to the End.” While it might sound like I’m being silly, the French throughout is important, and a clever device.

Best Use of Puns: Voima OyRSVP.” My funny bone was thoroughly tickled. The hologram, the eerie way the prisoners sat down, the meal before them… heehee… gastronomical.

Best Twist: Brian Creek, “Penniless and Wanting.” Thoroughly convinced this was a revenge epic until this magnificent turn: “Come on, Charlie, you’re ruining my book launch.”

Best Ballad Remix-Mashup: Dylyce P. Clarke, “Not With My Body You Don’t.” Reads like a remix-mash-up of Loreena McKennitt’s “Annachie Gordon” and “The Highwayman.”  

 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Digestible Ink, “The Wedding Night.” 

HG: Clair’s letter reads like something out of its time period, a great use of language. You can feel her sorrow, and later, her anger. Her threat to her lover at the end is heartbreaking, at the same time that it’s cruel.

FI: Such a voice in this! Like a bulwark against the breakers, those first two lines clash (“It is my wedding night. My husband lies drunk on the bed.”), drowning us in Clair’s plight, prescribed by “parents and duty.” So far she’s sunk, that she sees her lover’s gift as an instrument of escape (“This silk can free me from…life”), and, in her jealous anguish, threatens the very man she longs for (“If you are silent then my death will unleash your downfall.”). Heavy at the close, we’re left despairing that they’ll be returned to that indigo night under the low moon.

Steph Ellis, “‘Til Death Do Us Part.”

HG: The chilling last line “Let me get you another drink…” ties together a story that started off with an “act of charity” and finishes with a murder. The title is appropriate, and sinister after you’ve read the rest.

FI: From the opening, we know not to trust that “expected humility” on William’s part, and the frustration with his success in sending his Lucy off to “Prison and the madhouse” mounts with every web spun.  Each read-through presented new information and unanswered questions. What must he have done to provoke Lucy’s first attempt? In a delicious twist, it’s his own false charity that brings him down, thanks to the clever scheming of his wife and the weakness of a certain vicar. Lucy’s final words to former love are gripping, “Poor William, you look so thirsty. Let me get you another drink…”

Ian Martyn, “The Tale of the Master Baker.”

HG: Not only did this story make me hungry for fresh-baked bread, it wowed me with the consistency of the metaphor.  My favourite line: “And jealousy is the yeast to the fermentation of rumour.”

FI: Like Holly, I am in awe of this tale’s uniformity! Phrases like, “My baguettes the toast of France.” and “I was accused of using performance enhancing substances, as if my bread ever needed the addition of baking powder for the perfect rise.” kept me rolling (please, if you haven’t enjoyed this story yet, do so!). Behind all the impressive bread metaphors and tantalizing descriptions of croissants, the author gives us a well-rounded revenge tale, complete with the threat that “like a sourdough starter I bubble away out of sight and I promise you, I will rise again.”

Josh Bertetta, “Resolution.”

HG: The three main characters are intriguing. The conflict of Man vs. Man applies because even the snail and butterfly are “people.” The snail has a valid argument at the end and I think he may have won the battle.

FI: A fantastic story should be more than it seems. “Resolution” is just that. What begins as the set up for an unusual “Three so-and-so’s walked into a bar” joke, builds into a worlds-deep philosophical study. The odd companions, man, butterfly, and snail, argue what gives purpose, worth, and meaning to life. Is it power “I could crush you…and I could end your life with simple salt”? Is it freedom “I am then the freest… for I, being created of fire, change from one state of being to another?” Or is it ordained by a higher being “I, like water, can take the shape of my container—the spiral—the very shape of creation itself. I am the potential for becoming, the very stuff over which God breathed in Genesis”? (Love the appearance of Fibonacci spiral!) At the end, we understand that God is part of His creation, the snail proclaiming, “You see, I AM.”

THIRD RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker,The Making of a Man.” 

HG: This story takes the escaped convict character and gives it a charming twist. “My shackles are secure in her hands, my puppet’s strings taut and ready to leap with the first tug.” You might feel sorry for the man, if he hadn’t just been called “Mrs. McMuffins” (which is a spectacular name, by the way). “The outdoors beckons with manliness,” indeed. A creative tale that made me smile.

FI: With as much tension as launched its opening, “The Making of a Man” could’ve been set in an interrogation room. We sit and trembled as this mysterious jailor “narrows her eyes across the space,” and “recognize [our] sentence in their jade depths.” And then suddenly we’re sipping from “miniature teacups” and Mrs. McMuffins is not a Mrs. at all. The protagonist’s situation (and gender!) is cleverly disguised til the last. Though poor Mr. Johnson would’ve preferred to be out in the “manliness” of the outdoors, mowing and chopping, it takes a true man to sit and have “tepid water” tea with his imaginative daughter.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Marie McKay, “The Gentle Sway of the Forest.” 

HG: This story is compelling as well as eerie. The most powerful line of the story, “That made her want him more,” sets the tone and drives the ending home.

FI: “The Gentle Sway” is a beautiful example of the power of flash fiction. Stunning imagery throughout – “the studs in the denim blue sky,” “her brown curls splitting the yellow,” “claw fingers of the trees picking at the sutures of her patched up heart”), carried me through each heart-rending paragraph. So much is told in quiet, “cigarette-stained words.” He tells her tales, true or not that she believes: “Innocent. Locked up. Too long. Lost faith.” She stays because she “could change him,” ignoring every “cherry red warning” nature whispers. It’s a sign of true talent that such a dark fiction could leave you feeling comforted, wrapped in warm arms as the forest “casts its fresh, green blanket over her final resting place.”

FIRST RUNNER UP 

Eric Martell/DrMagoo, “Jacopo’s Place.” 

HG: This story had a fine twist on the “escaped convict” character. I could feel the poor man’s fear as he sipped on his drink. When his jailor was revealed, I agonized with him; thankfully the bartender was there to save him. The voice was superb and the bartender was a noble hero. (I also couldn’t help but have a small chuckle at the man’s expense.)

FI: As Holly said, “Jacopo’s Place” centered on a refreshingly original “convict”: a man trapped in an unhappy marriage and seeking refuge. Our observant narrator picks out all the signs of a fellow “guest of the state,” darting eyes and uneasy posture, and decides to let him tell his tale in his own time. Rather than ridicule the man as a “whipped dog” when his oppressor is revealed, Jacopo offers him an escape, reassuring him that “No one gets found in my place unless they want to be found.” The line instantly adds texture, leaving us to wonder how many others have sought safety in Jacopo’s Place.

And now: forgive the blubbering mess, but ohh darling draggins, please let the celebrations reverberate across the galaxies: it’s our long overdue, first-time

DRAGON WINNER

MARK A. KING!!!

for

The Dance of the Origami Girl and Porcelain Boy

HG: “Her dreams were crayon-colours.” What a gorgeous mental image that is, for someone as fond of crayons as I’ve always been. The implication of those colours is significant and unique. The two characters who are so different from one another, and yet who dream together…amazing. There is such depth here in so few words, such tender feelings and heartbreak. The final line is perfect and leaves you with hope as well as an underlying feeling of despair.

FI: From its unforgettable title to the prose-masked poetry dancing through its lines, “Origami Girl and Porcelain Boy” stole my heart on first reading. Its approach to both character and theme are brilliantly original. Rather than follow the trials of a traditional convict, it shows us two trapped souls from vastly different worlds: a boy living “his life in the smothering love of his parents,” and a girl surviving “in the folds of oppression.” And while many of the stories chose to paint portraits of revenge, this one chased after a “dream of impossible justice.” In their secret selves they crave a world where their “origami-porcelain children would be strong and independent, and loved,” escaping from that metaphorical prison the boy and girl have known from birth. For soul-searing prose and ingenuity, a worthy winner.

Congratulations, Mark! We’re all so jubilant and overwhelmed and giddy, we can barely contain ourselves. What a gorgeous story from a powerful and beloved writer. Please find here your brand new winner’s page (which has been waiting in the wings for some time now, knowing your day would come) and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please stand by for questions for Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story:

The Dance of the Origami Girl and Porcelain Boy

She lived her life in the folds of oppression.

He lived his life in the smothering love of his parents.

She once twirled in the sunlight. Once smiled. Her dreams were crayon-colours. Roughly sketched blueprints of respect, dignity, self-worth and a mythical thing called love.

He only left the house when they went with him. Mind that step, son. Have you taken your tablets? Button your coat. Don’t forget the emergency procedures.

She pursued her dreams and saw that glimmer of love in broken men; men that she would come to realise were beyond redemption.

He watched his parents die from the genetic disease that coursed through his veins and was left ill prepared to face the world alone.

She folded into the roles and shapes demanded of her. She was the beautiful dove, the delicate orchid, the fearsome dragon. Between roles, she could not turn back to herself—such a person did not exist.

He hid in the musty shadows of his house. Breathed the mould-spore mists. He didn’t clean the dust, for the dust was them. It was all he had left.

They dreamed. They dreamed of impossible justice.

In their dreams, they danced in the mirror-ball light of the moon. They touched with tenderness. Kissed with compassion. Their origami-porcelain children would be strong and independent, and feel loved.

Perhaps she would leave these men?

Perhaps he would leave this house?

And perhaps justice would be found in the dance of the Origami Girl and Porcelain Boy.

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 26: WINNERS!

It’s Winner Time! Hats, helmets, and plumed caps off to the lot of you for the fabulous torment you wreaked upon dear Pratibha; her winners’ list dripped with anguished tears over having to choose. Thanks to new and returning writers for joining this week’s adventure, and thanks to all of you who made time to comment on stories (especially Margaret Locke and MT Decker–wow–stunning support of the writers this week–thank you!). Someday we must put together a field trip to Guadalest to learn some of its real-life adventures (have any of you been? please share in the comments here!). 

Special thanks to those of you who made donations this week, too. Your contributions have already made a difference. I have surprises in the works for the third quarter, and now that we’re past the halfway mark of Year Two, I’m already hard at work on this year’s Flashversary (December’s mega contest). Our next judge panel is very exciting (and excited — that’s their thunderous anticipation you hear), and their names will be announced June 20. 

Finally: returning to Flash! Friday this week is Flash Points, a weekly line-by-line (ish) evaluation of a particularly noteworthy piece of writing. This week Flash Points will publish on Monday. Be sure to come back tomorrow to see if your story was chosen.

And now: join me in thanking faithful judge Pratibha Kelapure for her hard work this past quarter. Though it will be such fun having you back in the thick of the competition, your judgiffity perspective will be missed. THANK YOU! 

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Judge Pratibha Kelapure says: Hello Dragons! Curtain comes down today on my judging act here. That’s right, it was all an act. I am loath to judge anything, or is it I loathe to judge? 🙂 But be that as it may, I have enjoyed the experience, and I have a better understanding of what makes a story stand out among a group of excellent ones. I think! Oh, well! Rebekah, I am grateful for this opportunity. I thank all of you wonderful writers, regulars and the brand new ones, for all the brilliance and camaraderie. Allow me a moment to be sentimental and shed a few tears!

Ding! All done!

This week’s prompt was truly haunting. I want to write a longer story about it. Stay tuned. On one hand, the beautiful landscape inspired many tender stories of romance and love, and on the other, the treacherous climb to the tower brought on tales of mystery and evil. In all, fifty-five stories of clanging, tolling, and pealing bells warning young and old of the dangers lurking outside.

Okay, enough stalling, on with the results! But before that I want to give a huge shout-out to the fellow judge Jessica West. Her story “Renewal” took my breath away. The language is poetic, the concept is insightful, and the ending emerges organically from the flow of the story.  Bravo!

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Excellent Ending: Phil Coltrane, “Windmills Passing.”  I am rooting for the Kingdom to find the hero.

Wonderful Worldbuilding: Eric Martell, “Morning Prayer.” I want to see what offerings the “nameless one” needs.

 Lyrical Language: Carin Marais, “White Flag.” I can see that “snowy cloth” with my mind’s eye.

 Funny Fiction: Margaret Locke, “Monk-eying Around.” I had a blast! Thank you, Margaret!

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Marie McKay, “The Forger.” It is a twisted tale that flips the concept of good and evil on its head. The sensory details bring the setting and characters to life.

Betsy Streeter, “The Fire Goddess Gets Results.” I loved the dialogue, and descriptions such as “Her hands glow orange.” The character of the vengeful Goddess is portrayed convincingly.

Maggie Duncan, “The Last Watch.” I liked this ‘Sci-Fi’ish take on the prompt and irony of the underground world as the final frontier.

Tamara Shoemaker, “Night.”  What can I say? It is poetic and is an allegory of the humans destroying the environment. “Citizens chatting with the Reaper” – profound! 

THIRD RUNNER UP

Ian Martyn, “To Remember.” I loved the surprise at the end, quite fitting for the story written on D-Day. The characters of John and Father Bertol are well fleshed out in just a few words. The contrast between the two main characters is played out skillfully. The vivid description of the climb left me breathless.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Image Ronin, “The Messenger.” The plight of hard-working Arcane is gorgeously told. I simply loved the phrases, “orange flowers bloom in the twilight,” and “One after the other, a constellation of beacons spluttered into life.” The growth of the character during the span of the story is developed effectively. The sad ending left me teary-eyed.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Cindy Vaskova, “The Bell of Guadalest.” I loved this for the strong characterization of Anacleto; his anguish is palpable and his final act is defiant. The descriptions are vivid, “a gust of ash carrying wind blowing the stench of torched skin into his face.” I was drawn into the struggle of Anacleto, living each moment of his journey along with him. 

And now hoop ‘n’ holler with me: it’s long time writer, first time Flash! Friday  

DRAGON WINNER

BRETT CHARLES MILAM!!!

for

“Lost Time”

I really enjoyed this non-obvious take on the prompt. The story is a heartbreaking tale of motivation, set in a nursing home. The brutal portrayal of the nursing home and the phrases such as “wheelchair graveyard” and “the wheelchairs just happened to be populated by blinking corpses” bring out the harsh reality of the life in the nursing home. In sharp contrast, the picture of the “bell tower situated within a mountainous landscape” hangs on the wall. The relatable characters, the vivid portrayal of the setting, and creative integration of the prompt with the story made this a winner in my eyes.

Congratulations, Brett! Your brand new, unbelievably stupendous winner’s badge awaits you below. Here is your equally new winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me ASAP so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Lost Time

Once you reach a certain age, society’s attention wanders from you. And it wandered from Cosmo and the others.

It was like a wheelchair graveyard in Seaview Nursing Home – the wheelchairs just happened to be populated by blinking corpses.

For most of them, their day consisted of getting helped out of bed, plopped into their wheelchair and going a few feet beyond their room; to gaze at others, to watch the walls, to hopefully see someone young and vibrant.

Cosmo was one of the few roaming bipeds at Seaview. He didn’t get far, didn’t move fast, but he wasn’t tethered by the wheeled menace.

“I’m gonna get there some day,” Cosmo said to Renee, a nurse, pointing at a portrait of a bell tower situated within a mountainous landscape. As he did every day.

Renee knew the portrait was just a painting.

But for Cosmo, it was the fire in his old belly that kept him alive.

Kept him moving.

.

 

FFwinner-Web

* From 52 to 58.