Welcome back! That glass of wine made for such a fun way to kick off Year Three (scary, too; in some ways it was a bit like handing the wedding mic to Uncle Joe – you know who I mean – for a toast). Remember not to get too comfy, as fun new challenges wait in the wings here at ol’ FF. First, of course, TOMORROW IS FLASHVERSARY results day, with loads of prizes flung in every which direction, including the first-ever Readers’ Choice award based on YOUR votes.
This Friday’s regular contest will be judged by Dragon Captains Tamara Shoemaker and Mark King. If that doesn’t stoke your competitive edge and fire up your imagination, I don’t know what will.
J: Judging the entries this week was quite a treat. So many of you chose to not focus on the glass of wine instead weaving it into a much larger tale that captivated and held my attention throughout this weekend. I adored the way that many of you thought not only outside the box, but outside of the entire continent. We were treated to tales of quiet betrayal, heartache and loss that sent me wheeling with imagery. For that, I think you all deserve a round of applause!
IR: So, first week and we found ourselves taken aback by the scale, ingenuity, bravado and talent of the Flash! Friday community. Thank you to her Dragoness for entrusting us with this task, as stepping behind the curtain has been both terrifying and exhilarating.
As I’m sure you all appreciate the role of two judges, split geographically and temporally, was both a challenge and a negotiation of subjectivity. Thankfully there was little blood spilt, but it needs to be acknowledged how hard your creative submissions were to split apart. You guys are incredible and your writing is what makes Flash! Friday such a vibrant community to be part of.
We both judged this blind, so when the winners are revealed it’ll be as much a surprise to us as you. So here we go.
(Note: Joidianne’s comments are placed first throughout.)
Title Nod: Mark A. King, “Judge, Dread.” Simply because anything that refers to my (IR that is) childhood hero is hard to ignore.
Hinting at a Bigger Picture: Anthony Marchese, “The Northern Border.” Loved the concept of a conflict called the Schism Wars … here’s hoping we find out more about this place in the near future.
Pulling at the Heart Strings: MT Decker, “With an Empty Cup and an Open Heart.” For making me begin to write the IR offspring sage, albeit bad, advice.
D.B. Foy, “A Man Looks At His Life.” There was just something about this piece that completely captivated me. Maybe it was the personification of the alcohol woven throughout the piece or maybe it was the way that from the narrator’s first sip it became everything and anything he needed it to be. All in all, this was a brilliant use of the prompt and stunningly original.
Like Alice I tumbled down this particular rabbit hole, plummeting faster and faster as our cursed narrator reflected on his constant companion. The piece took us down the theme of alcoholism and the function as part of what we are, never apologising, but stripping back layers of a love affair that had stood the test of time.
Margaret Locke, “And They Lived…” I’m not usually one for clichés but these were all tied in so well with narrator’s misery that I couldn’t help but enjoy it. The ending is one that will stay with me for quite a while so it deserved an honourable mention. A playful lament to the resentment of time and unfulfilled dreams resonated due to that final image of a woman who believed herself as fragile and empty as the glass she held in celebration.
Erin McCabe, “Homesick.” If I had to choose a favourite piece that fully captured the essence of a complete story in just a few words, this would have been it. The quiet melancholy that this entry carried made my heart hurt and the ending pretty had it shattering into tiny pieces. This is such a brilliant tale that it would be a dishonour not to at least mention it.
I really enjoyed this piece too, the delightful playfulness of the opening that then takes us meandering through London. The tourist gaze of our narrator deconstructing a reality that reflects their own sense of self. Culminating with that perfect note of an ending.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Tamara Shoemaker, “Solitary.” The loneliness of this piece is what captured me from the start. The fact that the narrator delves into this fantasy world made up of possible interactions makes the loneliness all the more felt and the way that the fantasies suddenly vanished leaving the narrator with that single wineglass as evidence of how solitary an existence he/she is leading makes the piece all the more potent.
The solitude of excess and the devotion of the acolyte to their saviour, were something that lingered long after I had read this piece. The sadness and resignation, acceptance and contentment that permeates what seems such a simple tale is atmospheric – laced with the absolute mundanity of our existence (Campbell’s soup and golf).
SECOND RUNNER UP
Michael Seese, “The Betrayal.” Revenge will always be one of my favourite tropes and the author captured the very essence of it here. I love the little insight into Tom’s mind and the way that he figured out what had happened but above all I enjoyed the quietness of his vengeance. The tale approaches the matter in such a cold and calculated manner that it leaves you satisfied and horrified at the end. A sublime piece overall and I think this one will linger in my mind for a while.
Like many tales this week, including our winner, the notion of poison and deception were recurring tropes this week. The coldness that Jodi notes takes us delicately in hand leading us gently towards the fatal closure. In particular the line “an incarcerated man, like a glass of Cabernet, longs only to breathe.’ Will be one I will treasure for a long time to come.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Matt Lashley, “Internet Dating.” I must admit that this was a personal favourite of mine. The author managed to paint a vulnerable picture of the woman that had me feeling sympathetic not only for her dating choices but also for the way that she saw herself in this detached manner that suggested a number of not so nice things about her self-esteem. The only odd thing that I picked up on was the mention of the hammer and the reason for its presence was such a brilliant twist that I have to applaud the author’s ingenuity.
Like Jodi, for me this piece just worked and easily could have taken winner’s status. The title was a delight, setting the tone and also forcing the reader into a perspective that is eventually subverted. The reflective quality of the first paragraph, the visceral imagery of our narrator’s body, the disgust and delusion, was note perfect. The ending as brutal as the mind we meander within.
And now: for her second win, and our first win of Year Three, it’s Flash! Friday
The brilliance of this entry starts with the title along with the first sentence of the piece. It captures the reader’s attention and lends to the overall distortion woven throughout the words and that skewed perception makes the betrayal all the more felt. Because just like the narrator, the reader’s understanding of what is happening is, in the end, also distorted. Brilliant writing and an overall astounding piece.
Like a trip-hop journey through sensations and emotions the tale weaves the reader back and forth through a rich tapestry of seemingly perfection into a realm of betrayal. The imagery and pace of the piece, at points nearly hypnotic moved us beyond the simple notion of a glass and into a realm of deceit and desire.
Congratulations, Tamara! Below is your second winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your updated and sparklier than ever winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!
It is the distortion that I do not see.
It wavers, offset, unbalanced, against a backdrop of perfection,
Deep hues blending one into another like the shift of twilight into dusk into night.
Beauty spills from the scene, and peace, the scent of
Fingers lacing my hand,
A casual brush of my hair behind my ear.
So that when you smile, I don’t even notice the cracks in the smooth granite,
The weeds in the white lilies,
The scorpion that hides in the sand.
When you look at me with the familiar smile-creases,
When you lean in for our mutual touch,
When you raise your glass in toast to me,
I never notice the poison that swills the wine.
It sinks deep, unnoticed, into the purple liquid.
And on top, on the shimmering surface,
The picture tilts.