Tag Archive | Geoff Holme

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 45: WINNERS

Isn’t winners’ day sooooo much fun?? No matter who’s judging, I love reading your comments on stories, I love seeing which stories stood out for our judges, and seeing winners’ names is as yummy as a fresh Cadbury bar. Grateful to all of you for showing up to write with us & encourage each other. And again, thank you for your critique help on Saturday’s #Pyro. That honest, concrete feedback is gold, lemme tell ya — the story and critical comments are well worth the read.

Don’t forget that coming up this Friday we’re opening up applications for the next round of judges, who’ll kick off Year Four for us in December. Judging is where the fun is; it’s also the most critical part of this contest, and we couldn’t keep going without y’all. Please consider becoming a Dragon Captain! Advance details here.   

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Many thanks to Dragon Team Five, Holly Geely & Foy Iver, for daring to take on the White Whale. They say:   

FI: I’m breathless. Something about this prompt called out the poets in you, dear writers. There were so many captivating images of ocean swells, so many moments of levity turned raw with hurricane force, so many brackish life truths that parched my tongue. How is it possible to choose? More than any other judging round, I had to look to the mechanics, the emotion, and meaning behind each. Even if your story isn’t on the winners’ podium, it’s likely etched on the walls of my heart.

HG: I’m not as poetic as my dear partner, and after reading all your masterpieces, I really wanted to go to the beach. As the weather has turned and it’s already getting below 0° (Celsius) at night, that’s not the best idea. I had to settle for a drink on ice while I pondered my choices. It never ceases to amaze how many people with so much talent come together, week after week, to enjoy each other’s work. Righteous.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

BEST OPENER IN THE WORLD: Geoff Holme, “Whale Meat Again.” FI: MD 2 txt talk? 2G2BT! UCMU. 🙂

BEST ABSTRACT TAKEBetsy Streeter, “Coffee Brings Clarity.” FI: A diner, gnat, and reticent admirer born from a Moby Dick prompt. Writer, you have skill.

GREATEST TITLE EVER TITLED: Craig AndersonSon of a Beach.” HG: I have officially been tickled.

BEST OBSESSION EVER: Colin D. Smith, “Obsession.” HG: If he finally succeeds at the game, will he then corn-relish his victory?

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Michael Wettengel, “Boneyard

FI: Housed in the bones of a whale – such a powerful metaphor! Crisp, visual-laden sentences plant me firmly on that salty landscape; strong voices turn my head, looking for a weathered father and his incredulous child; purpose, guiding it all to the close, makes “Boneyard” an unforgettable piece of flash.

HG: “That’s what we thought…That there’d always be more.” Here’s an important life lesson. The characters in this story are exactly how I imagine future generations will be. Lovely story with a tragic ending.

F.E. Clark, “Seeking Yesterday

FI: “Seeking Yesterday” charms and terrifies. Fairytale poeticism masks a darkly relevant theme: mankind chasing immortal youth. How poignant that our princess spends her best days sequestered, pining for what’s passed. This gem stood out for its Brothers Grimm quality and its unique take on the prompt.

HG: I agree that it has a fairy tale vibe, but it also echoes society’s pressures of today, and an obsession with beauty that doesn’t do anyone any good. Every word in this story is important and in a short time, something so important is driven home.

AV Laidlaw, “Memento Mori.”

FI: Here again another flash with ocean’s depths of meaning. I could think of countless evils manifested in the whales’ plight. How we try to right what’s wrong, fail, and agree to move on, never speaking of the bones because we couldn’t affect change. The short, clean structure works well with the narrative style, bringing greater power to those last bitter lines.

HG:  The format of the story is what grips me here; the single final line on its own, with so much tragedy wrapped up in such a short sentence. The poor whales.

Caitlin Gramley, “You Can’t Ignore Me.” 

FI: I love a left-fielder! The ‘cost of obsession’ was a popular element but “You Can’t Ignore Me” sucks you in, almost convincing you that the voice is inside your skull. The syntax drives that impulse to heart-root, compelling you to get up and check the stove (did I turn it off?), or the lock (maybe I only thought I turned it). For me, it resurrected dead memories of compulsive prayers whispered in the dark, never good enough for the ears of God. Absolutely gripping, friend.

HG: You…wow…Whether or not it was the writer’s intent, this story captures the essence of Obsessive Compulsive disorder. I had to take a moment after I read this one, it strikes so close to home. Beautifully done.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Eliza Archer, “She, An Island

FI: That second line gives it all away and yet somehow we don’t see it until the fourth paragraph. Genius use of both the island and whale elements; neither felt strained. The whole piece leaves me yearning to know her backstory and yet afraid of what that glimpse might reveal. She sees the whale as benevolent but is he…? Was the man behind this manifestation responsible for her plight? We’re left to wonder.

HG: Beautiful imagery conceals the tragic twist of the ending, and makes you wish for Anne’s better island. Few words hint at something deeper, like the ocean, and the revelation that perhaps she’s only there in her mind is heartbreaking.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Nancy Chenier, “And the Whale” 

FI: Such a slow and careful unfolding! We see colors, hear songs, and feel the meaning in each before it is all given in that final line — even the title must be read through it. Each sentence is strong but the one I love the best is, “Megs wears levity like water wings, but what good are inflatable cuffs against a hurricane?” Their dichotomy couldn’t be drawn any sharper: the unquenchable hope of the mother and the tidal wave of fear drowning the father. A heart-bursting fiction that bleeds like reality.

HG: Adorable, sad…it has everything. I’m not sure how the almost-dad pictured the sea monster, but I’ve got a kind of stork/kraken hybrid in mind. The island and whale metaphors are consistently sweet (and great use of the Jaws theme).

FIRST RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “The Mighty Whale That Skims the Apocalyptic Skies.” 

FI: Moby Dick goes Steam Punk? Yes, please! Not only did you recreate the original theme in a fantastically unheard of setting, you turned your spyglass on that symbiotic dance every good antagonist and protagonist must perform. What is one without the other? Gorgeous language, strong world building, and perfectly paired bookends. I only wish this weren’t flash, but a fully developed novel in which to lose myself.

HG: I second the novel notion, consider me second in line when this is out for sale. I love the idea of the sky-whale (nightmarish memories of D&D notwithstanding) and the “vermillion-stained apocalyptic skies.” The title is huge for such a short story – and the story doesn’t disappoint with its scale. Awesome.

And now: for his perfectly gorgeous third win, it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

Mark A. King!!!

for

“The Framework Bird and the Ringing Singing Tree”

FI: Dear Writer, you’ve chopped into my chest cavity and tapped my lifeblood. Women who feel unwanted or unworthy will always have a refuge in my heart, and you’ve given us such a devastating portrait of this all-too common reality. I adored how you weaved in the “ringing, singing tree” (though its name is flipped), and I thought it worked well either as a reference to the musical panopticon or as a nod to the German tale “Das Singende, Klingende Bäumchen.” Your story arch is tangible and encouraging; we watched her travel from self-loathing to self-acceptance beneath that odd, metal tree. Your words are poetry and the message so fitting in today’s airbrushed society. Here’s to hoping that all the beautiful framework birds come to love what they see as unbeautiful.

HG: Ah, if only this was a feeling with which so many of us did not have to be familiar…In poetic verse you have captured sadness and hope. “In the winds and rain, she is accepted.” Isn’t that the truth? I can’t find the words to express the feelings this has awoken in me. A strong, clear winner, and a beautiful story.

Congratulations, Mark! Sheesh, after you won once, it would seem there’s no stopping you! Congratulations! Your winner’s page has a fresh coat of dragonpaint; your winning tale can be found there as well as over on the winners’ wall. Stand by for scintillating questions for your newest #SixtySeconds interview. And now here’s your ringing singing winning story:

The Framework Bird and the Ringing Singing Tree

She is but a jumble of blunt shapes encased in scrawny skin.

She is a framework bird.

In her stomach, the emptiness of self-loathing. In her mouth, the tang of acid reflux, the sour aftertaste of self-induced sickness.

She walks away from the whisperers. The airbrushed magazines. The imperfect reflections that stalk her.

She hops in the swaying heathland. Treads the foothills of stubble fields. Flitters beneath skies of wonder and fear.

She sits beneath the Ringing Singing Tree. Warped trunk and jutting boughs, its canopy holding up the sky. Its metallic tubes howl in the crosswinds, and ping in the pitter-patter rains.

In the winds and rain, she is accepted.

Beneath the Ringing Singing Tree is where the framework bird heals her wings.

FFwinner-Web

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 42: WINNERS

Welcome to the results party!! It’s always such a fun adventure, picking out favorites from the glittering heap. And speaking of glittering: WHAT A FABULOUS kickoff to #Pyro!! (Go read the story & critiques, if you haven’t already!) I couldn’t be more thrilled by the good-humoured, constructive, kind feedback on our very first offering (and thanks to you, Writer, for your courage in going first!). Can’t wait for our next round this Saturday. I loved seeing myriad perspectives on a single piece — so insightful. Thanks, y’all.

Coming up TOMORROW: a #Spotlight interview with writing phenom Lisa Crayton. Y’all may not know her yet, but you’re going to love her. She’s a freelance writer, mentor, editor, and respected conference speaker (of particular interest to me is that her book on Toni Morrison (with whom I have a slight obsession) is being republished in 2016) — she has so many interesting things to say on writing and connecting with agents/editors/publishers. You won’t want to miss this.  

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Ever grateful for the powerhouse judges of Dragon Team Five, Foy Iver & Holly Geely, for their combined efforts. I have it on good authority that tears were shed (on less good authority regarding what sort of tears, however). Here’s what they have to say:   

HG: Dear friends…Once more I am floored by your talent, and yet I must wonder – why was the depressed robot the most popular character? Who out there needs a hug? C’mon, bring it in. My arms will enfold you.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let us delve into the goodness that is the Adams prompt. For the record, my favourite part of the Hitchhiker’s Guide series is the oblivious whale falling to its death (closely followed by the bowl of petunias) which should give you a feel for my sense of humour. When I saw the prompt this week I knew you wouldn’t let me down.

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

FI:  Do I have to turn in my writer/reader card if I haven’t read Hitchhiker’s Guide? Hopefully not… I cried tears of laughter over the movie and have meant to enjoy the book ever since (no worries – my fellow judge is a fine connoisseur of all things Adams).

Your stories reawakened that sleeping intention! So many of you captured that tone, that voice, that hilarity (genius!), while others took the prompt a whole new direction (a boldness I’m quite pleased with), and all with wonderful results. Hopefully, our judging does them justice.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For Revenge that Tastes of Strawberry: Nancy Chenier, “Dining at Starpost.” HG: I love it when the cocky customer gets what’s coming to him. You want to be a stubborn jerk? You pay for it, son.

A Beverage that Does the Trick: Evan Montegarde, “Galactic Jack: When a Good Whiskey Just Won’t Do.” HG: Anything that begins with a guy in underpants and a purple robe is bound to end well. Where can I get some of this drink?

For the Most Dizzying Use of Bureaucratic Drivel: Clive Tern, In Response.” FI: For both the laugh and the headache, I thank you.

For Working in a Few of the Best Sci-Fi’s on Bookshelves: @dazmb, “Tyrell High School.” FI: A clever alphabet soup of several of the best sci-fi’s on bookshelves. Miss Voight-Kampff’s empathetic head tilt especially tickled my brain.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Evan Montegarde, SAD2434 and His Box of Crayons.

HG: As a huge fan of crayons, I approve of their use in this story. SAD2434 (fantastic acronym, well done) tugged at my heartstrings. His heroic efforts to amuse himself made me cheer. That ship needed a real dressing down. I hope your crayons last too, SAD2434. I love you. Good luck. 

FI: Haven’t we all wanted to crayon someone’s face now and then? No? Just me? Never mind… SAD2434’s irritability is amusingly human.

Geoff Holme, “Bad Day at the Office.” 

HG: Dear writer… you win at life. “I’m afraid Elvis has left the building.” If you know me at all, you know how I love a punny ending. (I bet you did, didn’t you? I bet you were trying to trick me into choosing you, weren’t you? It worked, writer. It worked.) This is fantastic, a marvelous use of the depressed robot. 

FI: I wonder if a spoonful of peanut butter might make our irascible Elvis feel better. Great job telling through dialogue – not easily done! –  An amusing end makes this a fun read.

Craig Anderson, “Dozing Off.”

HG: This is a spectacular use of the depressed robot, the age-old question of what would happen if the machines took over (and had a dark sense of humour), and it includes sound advice: “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?” Well done, writer; this is hilarious. 

FI:  A machine with an existential dilemma, Doze-master 3000 is exactly the type of antihero I adore! He thoroughly stole my heart. In fact, I’d take him to Paris in an instant. Charming voice, no excess word fat, and character progression in 160 words. A fine piece of flash.

David Parkland, “The Infinity Machine.”

HG: Even when one does not know one’s own purpose, how can one resist pressing the big red button? (One, or six, or nine…) This story has a clever, shivery feeling and I like it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and press a big red button.

FI: Such a fascinating concept! A machine adrift in that dark void, creating something from the nothing, maybe even all the numbers in existence. What sealed it for me is that familiar curiosity – even a robot can’t resist pressing the red button.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Brett Milam, “Hollow.”

HG: “There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t fight another machine.” The title fits the story in so many ways. Hollowness, literal emptiness, loneliness… It makes me sad in a helpless way, and somehow I understand the robot’s pain even though I don’t have a similar experience to draw upon. Beautifully done. 

FI: Another story that won me over for the trim, simplicity of it. The voice in “Hollow” is perfect, cold, distant, matter-of-fact and ties everything together from John’s death to the slow wait. It, too, raised questions of the relationship (dependence?) between humans and their technology. Anything that makes me think gets high marks in my book.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Sydney Scrogham, “Without You for the Last Time” 

HG: She died choosing him.” What is this in my eye? It can’t be a tear, I don’t cry. DON’T LOOK AT ME. (In all seriousness, though, this is truly beautiful and thought-provoking in such a unique way.)

FI: I adored this one for the questions it provoked: what lengths would we go to to keep our loved ones alive? If we could extract human consciousness, the soul, and upload it into an immortal body, have we really saved the original being?

The prose is clean, clear, and minimalist – William Strunk Jr would’ve been proud- and all the other elements of good flash are there, from the first line to the last. Who could stop reading after an opening like “He knew he’d outlive her”? The rest follows suit until that final paragraph brings this original twist on love and lose to a reverberating close. Well done.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker, “Demolition.” 

HG: I am Victory, and you are Defeat” is, for me, the best closing line in the bunch. Something about this story makes me feel small; not insignificant, only small. It touched something in me I can’t usually reach; A+, writer. Well done. 

FI: I asked that your story sear itself to my memory, and this one has.

Gorgeous prose, meaning woven throughout, and distinctly unique tone kept bringing me back for “just one more read.”

It’s a clever wordsmith that can bring me from laughing at the oddities of depressed robots and horrendous poets, to hushed awe over a reflection on a single yet universal victory some 2000 years old.

It’s no small thing to take a prompt as concrete as a house about to be bulldozed and give us an abstract view.

You know your craft well, dear writer.

And now: for her second time, fabulous creature!! — join me in congratulating our 

DRAGON WINNER

Steph Ellis!!!

for

“Byron’s Last Stand, by Lord Algernon Postlethwaite”

HG: This is a heart-wrenching tale of woe, tearfully sculpted from the broken dreams of a broken man.

I’m totally kidding. This is a hilarious romp in which the enemy threatens to “haiku on your face.” I don’t know what that means, but I desperately want to see it. This was a clear choice for winner; a bad poem about bad poets. It’s just like the movie Inception. Okay, not really, but it’s magnificent. My new favourite line from a poem ever: Byron swallowed, sensed the threat; From this man of beef.”

FI:

Two things you’ve done especially well,
Mysterious writer friend.
You’ve captured Adams’ cheeky flavor,
And did so to an end.

For while we laugh and cringe at him,
Lord Byron could be us.
At first so proud of his creation,
Cruel jeers send him running to the dust.

Was he bad or simply cowed,
By common negativity?
So oft, as writers, we heed the harsh,
Believing truth must lack civility.

Silly us, t’isn’t so! Truth is bold,
But also kind – we want critique not criticism,
Let’s hope Lord Byron learns this fact,
Before his passion fails him.

Congratulations, Steph! Please find here your smartly updated winner’s page (let me know if you’d like to rewrite your bio in verse? cuz that would be totally COOL). Your winning tale can be found there as well as over on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for details regarding your second Sixty Seconds interview! And now here’s your winning story:

Byron’s Last Stand, by Lord Algernon Postlethwaite

Byron Grimshaw eyed the crowd
Gathered at his door
Better than at Open Mic
The chance he’d waited for

He inhaled the dusty air
Puffed out his pigeon chest
“Hark my fellow countrymen,
Beneath my bosom’s breast …”

“Lurks a Primark padded bra
And poncey pink silk vest”

Determined not to yield his spot
To hecklers, he declaimed
Words that he intended
Would endure, spreading his fame

“Down Durham’s dreadful dreary roads
Yellow monsters chewed up brick,
As the bard orated ….”

“You really are a p…”

The words were lost amid a stir
As the foreman pushed towards him
Bulldozed his way up to the front
Clear threat behind his warning

“I’ve tickets for the match tonight
Son, you’re a right disgrace
If you don’t come out here pretty quick
I’ll haiku on your face”

Byron swallowed, sensed the threat
From this man of beef
Meekly slunk out of the house
And ran off down the street.

FFwinner-Web

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 40: WINNERS

It’s Monday!!!! (“Not for me!” some of you are saying — Stella, I see that scowl! –but alas, work kept me out late today. Thank you for your patience. [Yes, even if that patience masquerades as a scowl. You don’t fool me one bit, you cute, fluffy bighearts.])

As it’s so late, I’ll keep announcements brief: join us TOMORROW!!! (Tuesday, in case tomorrow for you happens to be today already) for a super fun #Spotlight interview with our own Holly Geely, who’s dishing on her brand new book, The Dragon’s Toenail. And yes, of course she’s giving away a free copy! Because PAAAARTY!!!!!

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Many thanks to Dragon Team Eight, Voima Oy & A.J. Walker, for judging so magnificently. Your time and effort are so deeply appreciated! Here’s what they had to say:   

V– Some stories just never grow old, and I hope we never grow too old for fairy tales. They are more than magic. They are alive. These stories are timeless, changing, ever new. They are tales of  love and betrayal, losses, hopes, memories and dreams. They are as old as life, young as the sense of wonder. This time, they sure inspired you! Thank you for sharing your contemporary takes on these tales. I so enjoyed these spirited characters and lively, compelling stories. There were so many wonderful stories, I wish I could  mention them all!  

AJW– Well, Rebekah once again left Team8 with an unenviable task (and the sad loss of not entering for such a week of possibilities – we’ve had the Arabian Nights and now the Brothers Grimm flip!). There was a strange lack of dragons considering there was an entire 300 words to play with – as most of the authors seemed to want to take Rapunzel’s locks to task (and not a single shampoo and blow dry in any of them). There were some nice comedic pieces and punning for me to get my canines into. There seemed to be a fair bit of moralising and ‘justice’ and not much schmaltzy love stuff at all – so much cynicism you guys! 

Anyway, what big eyes you lot have! All the better for reading the results I guess…

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

For Brevity: A.V. Laidlaw‘s “Reduced Brothers Grimm” (11 words), Geoff Holme‘s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” — (0 words) the title is the story — and Geoff’s other story (although late) “Small Ad” (17 words), an inspired take on Hemingway’s classic of the baby shoes. 

For Romance: Margaret Locke, “If Only All it Took.” This is such a charming story of the fairy tale and Prince Charming ideal. Cinderella or Belle — Beauty and the Beast?  This is a story within a story. The romance is delightful–“Yes, she really liked  Deveric Mattersley.'”

For Reality: Josh Bertetta, “Reign and More Rain.” In this world of struggle and suffering and refugees, “Where is God and justice? Life ain’t no fairy tale.”

For One Mean Girl with a Gun and a Only Just Cleaned Cape. Craig Anderson, “Basket Case.” AJW- The cocky girl with the put downs (and the ultimate put down) is just brilliant. Though I’ve now vowed never to approach a young lady with a basket – just in case.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Colin Smith, Lifeline” & Eric Martell, “Aloft on Wings of Fire.”

There were many fine tributes to 9-11 this week, and these two are at the top: Rapunzel in her tower was powerfully evocative. These stories in particular stood out to me for their vividness. The feel of the braid, the voice repeating “let down your hair to me”; and Rapunzel as savior — beautiful and haunting, both. 

Phil Coltrane, “The Night Princess.” 

Love the fantasy elements of this story — The Enchanted Forest, where “snow whirled through the summer air.” and the Castle of Ice. Minuella becomes the Princess. Sareel the Siamese cat turns into a lynx. 1000 nights pass in one night. At the first touch of sunlight, everything is gone. Time to get back for breakfast.”  To me, this story is pure magic.

Holly Geely, “So Much for Tradition.”

Starting with “Twice upon a time,” this story is fearless and funny. Princess Snapdragon’s outspoken character and her choice of true love are a refreshing twist on the traditional type of fairy tale. The ending is great — “The king and queen were miserable, but they were jerks, so who cares?”

Eliza Archer, “Change of Heart.”

The viewpoint from the letter writer was perfect. The help yourself book, a basket with the returned baby. Made me laugh – which is never a bad thing – and perfect pathos too.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Dave Park, “Expensive Lesson.”

V – A tailor is charmed by a lovely lady who promises to bring in more business to his shop. Instead, she takes advantage of him and nearly drives him out of business. This is like a classic tale. And there is a moral, too. “But she’s so nice!”  “Nice is different from good,” his mother says.  

AJW – I have to say that this was brilliantly written and sexy – even if it was written as the polar opposite of a bodice ripper. I feel complete and utter sympathy for the poor sap and his cynical – if quite correct – mother. His forlorn hope that the work would flood in whilst he still got to look after his favourite (none paying) customer is all too believable. I hope she gets her comeuppance in some other fairytale and that life improves for poor Konrad. But I too am now living in cuckooland if I expect that to happen.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “The First Requisite for Immortality” 

V – “If only her death had been final”  –Is there is such a thing as death online?  “They knew her better than we did.” The grieving parents find their daughter’s life on social media–“the touch of flesh replaced with the touch of screen.”   It is  a  timeless tale  of love and loss, made even more heartbreaking by contemporary technology.   Beautiful writing, thought-provoking piece. 

AJW – This seems to hit many a nail squarely on the head. As everyone grapples with technology which only seems to grip us further around our everything our lives are lived, replicated and saved to the cloud (and GCHQ). And yet we do see stories in RL of families living almost vicariously through FB and the like. Trying to hold on to something they never truly had. It can seem so sad. The story truly got the sadness, loss and the forlorn hope and belief across. Well done.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Karl A. Russell, “Becoming Grandma.” 

V – This subject matter of this story is grim indeed—“Once her hide is clean and dry, I stand in front of the dressing table mirror to try it on…”  careful not to rip the “liver-spotted skin.”  It is the Wolf becoming Grandma — “tucking my tail into the spare folds around her belly. …her scalp flicked nonchalantly across my shoulder like a stole… If not for the handsome lupine head, I could almost pass as human.”  The voice  keeps the description from becoming gratuitously brutal.  It is a macabre story of transformation. The red lipstick hiding the red thread mending the torn lips is the perfect touch.  I thought of Silence of the Lambs, the music Buffalo Bill danced to…

AJW – Leaving the contents in the tub for later. Gruesome indeed. And a nightmare to get the rings out of later. But if the wolf can handle a lipstick I’m sure a cleaning cloth will be simple. Honestly though, a thoroughly engrossing read told with fabulous detail and seemingly effortless. A deserved runner up.

And now: for her second time — but first since November 2014 — it’s this week’s sparkly

DRAGON WINNER

CARIN MARAIS!!!

for

“Bones Beneath the Juniper Tree”

V – I admit I was not familiar with this story, but I found out more on Wikipedia. It is a famous tale from the brothers Grimm and it has been made into an opera and a film.  In the original, there is a bird and a millstone, and justice prevails.  The story here takes a more tragic turn. It starts out as a fairy tale, a happy ever after that no one at the Twilight House believes.  The reality of the present situation is sad. The true story is heartbreaking. As Marleen unwraps her brother’s bones — “What was she supposed to have told the young woman who came to see her every week, she thought. No-one really wanted to know the truth. Hear the details of how your stepmother killed and cooked your brother. How your father shot her when he found out. How he drank himself to death. How you still saw the blood and the bodies each night in your nightmares.”  The writing here is so spare and clear — bare bones and beautiful. 

AJW – Simply presented story told across just two paragraphs and as creepy as it gets. I could almost smell an old people’s home. How many of these are full of people with pasts too scary to contemplate? It seems that she is too wily to tell the truth whilst probably thinking that they couldn’t handle the truth anyway – whilst those asking the questions of the old girl know there’s something else there somewhere – and equally don’t really want to find out. Perfectly balanced story, paced well – no rushed beginning or end. Just a scary old lady with a past and a handkerchief of small bones. Well done. Sleep well.

Congratulations, Carin! Such a joy to see you in the dragon crown again at last. Please find here your freshly updated, gold-and-emerald glowing winner’s page. Your winning tale can be found there as well as (shortly) over on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for this week’s Sixty Seconds feature. And now here’s your winning story:

Bones Beneath the Juniper Tree

“And then suddenly my brother was standing there again and he was alive. And the body of my stepmother had disappeared into thin air. And we danced and sang and were glad to have each other once more,” Marleen said as she knitted.

No-one in the common room of the Twilight House looked up. They’d heard too many variations of the story.

“And you believed this really happened?” the social worker asked, making a note of getting Marleen to a psychiatrist.

“Of course,” Marleen said. “We lived happily ever after and father married for the third time and was happy until the end of his days.” She knitted faster, not caring that she’d dropped nearly half of the stitches in the short time the woman had spoken to her.

At last the woman left and Marleen returned to her room. She took out the bundled handkerchief from its hiding place in the corner of the locked trunk at the foot of the bed. Making sure no-one could see her, she unfolded it and stared at the small bones hidden inside the cloth. What was she supposed to have told the young woman who came to see her every week, she thought. No-one really wanted to know the truth. Hear the details of how your stepmother killed and cooked your brother. How your father shot her when he found out. How he drank himself to death. How you still saw the blood and the bodies each night in your nightmares. No, she thought as she hid her brother’s bones again. Better to tell of beautiful birds and millstones crushing her head. Better to say we lived happily ever after. Better to forget all of the bones buried beneath the juniper tree.

FFwinner-Web