Tag Archive | Liz Hedgecock

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 36: WINNERS

There’s something compelling about the Jazz Age in the U.S. The wild excess and Prohibition, Wall Street and overnight wealth, all horrifically colliding in the disaster of the great stock market crash of October 1929 which hurled the country into years of dark depression. Many of you emphasized that tragic outcome; others of you told stories with sharp-edged sarcasm; still others threw it all out the window and made us dissolve in laughter. Regardless of which of the myriad directions you took doomed Jay Gatsby this round, one thing’s for sure: you made it impossible for us to look away.

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Pearl-dripping thanks also go to Dragon Team Seven, Nancy Chenier & IfeOluwa Nihinlola. There’s nothing quite like foisting The Great American Novel on judges who live in Canada (albeit transplantedly) and Nigeria, but you’ll find their expert eyes pierced through the boundaries of time and culture with the greatest of ease. (OK, they might take issue with ease.) Handing the mic over before I get myself in trouble:   

IN: For a 90s kid from southwest Nigeria, the prohibition-era US of Gatsby might as well be a galaxy far far away. The writers, this week, within the constraints of the word-count, did their best to render that world in vivid detail, and I appreciate that. Picking winners was not made easier by the shorter length like I thought it would; if anything, it seemed to bring out the best of everyone here. It’s another day, another winners list, but with more sleep and a different weekend, I could have easily rooted for a different set of stories from the pool and they would still be fitting winners. Thank you all for being great contributors.

NC: Whoa! Seventy-eight razor-sharp flashes. Who knew Gatsby could inspire such bloodthirsty tales? This batch may be even darker than the dystopian futures under oppressive governments we had the last time we assumed the Mantle of Judgement. The task of picking our favorites was, as ever, a daunting one. I know, judges say that all the time, but it’s true. It hurts to settle on a final list since many, many great stories get shoved off the podium. On the up-side, that means we got to read a lot of great stories. So, thank you, everyone, for making this round as difficult as it was.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Scream Award for Horrifying Phone Communication Award: Josh Bertetta, “Text I’ll.” Even though I had an idea where this was going (as with Scream’s opening scene), it wasn’t any less frightening. The text messaging diction of teenagers almost adds to the menace.

Zestiest Use of Language Award: Richard EdenfieldSilencer.” Even though the English instructor in me wouldn’t even approach parsing the sentences, the artist in me cheered for the femme fatale story that sparked from those sentences. Like reading Woolf but way more fun.

Infinite Worlds in Finite Space Award: Mark A. King, “NYi.” Loved the parallels between the polar opposite Harrys. The placement of each Harry at either end of the spectrum implies a myriad variation in between. Killer closing sentence too.

Most Intimidating Inside Joke Award: Karl A. Russell, “Top Dog.” Sure glad #flashdogs do everything via e-mail.

Tetris Award: Eliza Archer, “Sinking Fast.” For incorporating nearly every element into a coherent and enjoyable bit of flash. 

Sassiest Award: Liz Hedgecock, “Whiskey Sour.” For the sassiest capture of the Roaring 20s. What a figure that flapper cuts! Her attitude, the sly cues from the bartender, the line “she slid a dollar bill across the bar, and herself onto a stool” (channeling Chandler?) made me long for a time machine.

Best Use of Compare/Contrast Essay Format: Steven Stucko, “Book Report.” This piece enshrines the relatively new push for students to relate the classics to their own lives. The parallel between Gatsby and Joe (the writer’s EX-stepdad, making Mom the approximation of Daisy) is really a look at two prohibitions. Gatsby gets shot, Joe gets probation—we can call that progress.

Koolest Award: Margaret Locke, “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…” This story is a pop-kulture junkie’s dream. It’s the klosest we got to keeping up with the stories on E! and MailOnline. He got his kloset, and I got my fun out of parsing the story’s details for what is based on life and what is not.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

 

Bill Engleson, The Dancer.”

IN: The Dancer’s opening sets the character’s voice right away: cold, lucid, emotionless. Then the imagery that follows is exquisite: dead woman’s shawl; heaved herself off the 8 story tenement bought for a song. The switch, midway into the story, isolated in a one-sentence paragraph, is made more jarring by the deadpan opening. And it is here that the story really soars. Suddenly we see that the numbness of the narrator is the result of someone who has become cold so as to be able to deal with a lover’s serial infidelity without resorting to self-pity.

NC: The second sentence really drew me in: “The moon is hidden by a dead woman’s shawl” raises so many questions. The initial lie of this one says volumes about the character. It’s the lie she’s used to telling and flows from her naturally. Yet, there’s the crucial detail that betrays the lie: why is she lingering in the room of the dead woman? Another wonderful aspect of this tale is the implication that the full truth has yet to be revealed. Yes, she’s come clean about knowing the woman, but not about how she died. Instead we’re left with Grant discovering the MC’s “interests”. Very sly.

 

Catherine Connolly, “The Sins of the Flesh.” 

IN: Gatsby evoked a lot of dark tales in this round of stories, but the fantastic elements in “Sins of the Flesh” made it stand out. Nothing is given away easily. Metal is fumbled between hands. Then revealed to be a grubby coin. One character is asked to take his leave, to close his ears. Then another—definitely dead—is asked to free himself and rest easy. Hunger rises, rides the narrator roughshod, then the month descends, ravenous. He swallows to keep ‘it’ down, then a cough threatens regurgitation. He says it is done. Then he says he’ll reunite whatever he ate with the owner later. Why? Because the price is not right. *cringes* Perhaps the details of the narrator’s old ways are better left in a fudge. But the fact that they are held back makes the story even more appealing.

NC: A dark fantasy that refuses to show its hand to great effect. The first paragraph is ominous and intriguing. The MC seems to be some kind of gruesome psychopomp. Elements such as reference to the old ways, the deference of the client toward the MC, the cannibalism, the idea of “premature regurgitation” in conjunction with “I’ll reunite it with its owner later”, all work to make this tale a chilling one. Once tasted, this one lingers on the palate.

Jess Carson, “Just A Taste.”

IN: Like Nancy rightly points out below, the narrator of this story and “The Dancer” could be two incarnations of the same person. Here, again, is the cold detachment of the voice, the deadpan delivery of the narrative, all made into a lyrical description of a love heist. The satisfaction of the narrator as showed in the ending is clear. I can almost see the smirk on her face as she delivers the last line: Even tarnished trophies shine.

NC: This one and “The Dancer” told similar stories from a similar POV and setting, yet gave us very different results. Love, love, love the voice of this one, the disaffected tone, the figurative language surrounding the consumption of alcohol (so appropriate, this being prohibition: once one taboo is broken, what other lines stand ready to be crossed?). On top of all that, there is something incredibly satisfying about the wife slipping off with the “trophy” her husband intends to cheat with. The final line lands on a splendid note.

Michael Wettengel, “Gold (to) Dust.” 

IN: I’m not a fan of genealogies (the after-effect of reading the book of Numbers as a child) but Gold (to) Dust does really well with the form, creating fully realised histories out of simple declarative sentences—Michael=rich, Andrew=poor, Mary=lonely—and showing how each one’s existence precipitated the other. In Mary, the start of a cycle is established. And seeing her back in that apartment makes me sad for her, for how sometimes we can spend most of our lives struggling to evade the shadow of family members who are long gone, even if our shelves contain no pictures of them.

NC: A sad decade crossed in 150 words, rags to riches to rags again. The absence of pictures of key family members bespeaks a poverty that money can’t break, driving home the message that money (or lack of it) does nothing to secure love or loyalty. The language of this piece is rich and devastating. Andrew’s dissolution is told with incredible imagery: “Gold dripped from his fingers and champagne fountained from his mouth until his fingers went cold and his mouth gathered flies.” And we come full circle with Mary back at the apartment that once inspired us to pity Andrew (daughters of Midas figures rarely fare well).

THIRD RUNNER UP

Dazmb, “Abstinence.”

IN: The first statement of the story already invites us not to take what we see on face value. “It’s not so much a speakeasy as a ragged carousel of illicit expectation…” It’s not so much a story about a potential rape as it is a story about an abandoned murder. It is not so much a confession as it is a story of regret. But what exactly does the narrator regret? How did he become the possessor of a dark heart, of a serpent in the head? The story is not resolved this way or that. Heaven or hell. And by holding back that resolution, the writer makes this worth reading again.

NC: Delightfully sneaky in its sinisterness, this one hooked me in the first line. The wonderfully contemptuous description of the not-speakeasy (“ragged carousel of illicit expectation”) bespeaks an attitude we’ve come to expect from sadistic killers. All of his actions, too, build the threat toward the drunk woman. Loved the imagery of his internal struggle as a “gnarling” serpent, and also how “bone-snap of intention” reveals that it’s murder on his mind. The game he plays, making sure she sees him in the mirror, catching a whiff of the peril she’s in—or, rather, might be in were the MC to close the narrow gap between innocence and guilt. 

SECOND RUNNER UP

Joey To, “Crashes” 

IN: Take away the explanation at the end of this story and I would still love it as much as I do now. By immersing us deep in the mind of the character and simply moving through his thoughts, I know him more than the word-count would have otherwise permitted. All of his feelings are bare: the initial self-loathing, the cockiness when he becomes successful, and that last line. Reading this story, I thought of George Saunders. Anything that reminds me of George is good.

NC: I liked this before I read about its link to the Chinese proverb and liked it even more once I learned of the link. The unique single-line format really leant itself to the story being told. We get vivid and rapid-fire flashes of the break-up, heartbreak and recovery interspersed with the MC struggling through school, adding semester after semester. One might read that as the MC being a failure (as apparently the “she” of the story does), but the reader sees instead someone who doesn’t give up. The persistence that keeps him pushing through failed exams is probably the same quality that keeps her in his head and that he chides himself over (“I must be pathetic”). The shortest line is the pivot for the story and it even contains the line “it went quickly”. Then the lines gain length as the MC gains confidence, so when he rebuffs the woman, it is the cherry on top of his success parfait. Fine flash-craft here.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Michael Seese, “Birds.” 

IN: Reading “Birds” felt like watching someone speed-paint. Every brush stroke is defined and sure, doing just enough to show there’s something good coming out in the end. Each detail, taken separately—birds, dogs; blank and white, colour; crows eating humble pies—means next to nothing, but together, they become a clear image of sadness and regret. And the way the conclusion is left open takes quality up a notch. I think he jumps and hits the concrete and becomes red mass like the stockbroker. But I think that says more about me than the story. Isn’t that what all good stories do?

NC: The setting is established in the very first sentence with its coy reference to Black Monday. The fluttering thoughts woven through with bird idioms on the first read is entertaining and endearing, but by the time I reached the end, I learned how appropriate the imagery is. The flow from paragraph to paragraph is remarkable and each seemingly disparate detail fits into the overall puzzle. Every seemingly flighty line (see what I did there?) follows a deliberate progression to the end. By the time the reveal hit, I was fully sympathetic with the MC. The presentation of “Mr. Charles Mitchell, the stockbroker” as an impact character, a man not separate from his title, makes him seem somewhat culpable in the loss of money and not merely the messenger. The last line leaves me wondering if the MC might attempt to prove the last line. That he’s on the ledge does point to eventual suicide, but it’s not finalized so I can hold onto that sliver of hope that he “flies away”.

And now: joining Phil Coltrane as our only FIVE time winners, it’s the mindblowing, freshly returned from break

DRAGON WINNER

CHRIS MILAM!!!

for

Penelope Callaghan

IN: “Penelope” does all the good flashfiction-y things. That usually goes very wrong or very right, but here it goes the right way. The framing (from freshly-gutted tuna to filleted sturgeons), the imagery, the well-tuned dialogue, and the end-twist, all deliver a complete story in 150 words. There’s only one description each for the characters (“A face that could’ve launched the ship she arrived on, the Mauretenia,” and “The savage bouquet of cheap cologne”), yet their sketch is clear: Jimmy is lecherous, confident in his knowledge of the world; Penelope is, on the surface, naive, but she turns out to be the darker of the duo. Unlike Nancy, I’m unaware of the allusions in this piece, but it’s so well written that even without knowing them, the story works. Having Nancy point them out below just increases my enjoyment

NC: So much tasty in this piece. The language is as sharp as a filet knife. The fish-gut imagery that sandwiches this piece—a reference to the mob-controlled Fulton Fish Market, perhaps?—is perfect. Penelope is a brilliant character, first through Jimmy’s eyes, through the dialogue, to the last paragraph which shifts deftly to her POV (a shift that also manages to move us ahead in time as well, without a page break). The reference to the Mauretania signals a crucial element that Jimmy (who makes the allusion) misses: it was the fastest liner of its day. We know she’s new to the New World, but she’s savvy enough to take on “dark America”.  The dialogue between them crackles: her bluntness vs. his slang-heavy banter, and what wonderful slang it is too. I can imagine Jimmy having a habit of hustling new arrivals, but she turns out to be his match, established in the dialogue, confirmed in the end. Not knowing the allusions doesn’t diminish the enjoyment of this piece at all (which makes them the best kind of allusions). The last paragraph packs so much into it without getting bogged down. One tiny scintillating phrase (“rum-fisted uppercuts”) drums up enough antipathy for Jimmy that his demise in the next line seems inevitable and satisfying.

Congratulations, Chris, you stunning writer! Please find here your updated winner’s page; your winning tale will be found there shortly as well as over on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for directions regarding your fifth Sixty Seconds interview this week. And now here’s your winning story:

Penelope Callaghan

The man was prowling the docks for a juice joint when he saw her. Hair as red as a freshly gutted tuna. A face that could’ve launched the ship she arrived on, the Mauretania.

“Jimmy Banks. You’re a choice bit of calico. You gotta name?”

“Penelope.”

“A pleasure. You need a gig? I can get you work making dresses. Yes?”

“No. I didn’t come here to be a seamstress.”

“I dabble in muck sometimes. You game?”

“Why not. Show me your dark America.”

He schooled her. “Take advantage of your looks. Get close. Flirt with your mouth. Pop some buttons on your blouse. When he’s hooked, ram steel into his heart. Don’t hesitate. Know your onions. Make some cash.”

Years and dozens of punctured ventricles later, Penelope would think of Jimmy Banks. The rum-fisted uppercuts. The savage bouquet of cheap cologne. The way his chest opened up, like a filleted sturgeon.

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 27: WINNERS

It’s coming up on a HUGE week in Flash Dog Land: in case you haven’t heard (not possible!!), the newest, most compelling flash fiction anthology, Solstice: Light/Dark yet is hurtling into publication on June 21. Make sure you’re following @FlashDogs so you won’t miss a thing. In honor of this event, tomorrow our Spotlight feature will shine on the Pack Leaders themselves, Mark A. King and David Shakes. Be sure to come back for this exciting, behind-the-scenes look.  

In the meantime, it’s another goodbye-fest here at Flash! Friday, as we bid a fond and grateful farewell to Eric Martell and Carlos Orozco in their capacity as dragon captains. They’ve judged your stories faithfully and with excellence, wrenching themselves out of deep and comfortable naps beneath large, warm rocks to do so. Now that’s love! –They’ve promised we will still see much of them as they write and share stories here; help me chase them down if they don’t, k? THANK YOU, dear friends, marvelous writers, for giving of your time and hearts to this community. We’re so very, very grateful.   

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Dragon Captains Eric Martell/Carlos Orozco say: 

Eric: The best part about judging for Flash! Friday is that you have to read all of the stories. You can’t let life get in the way and miss all the wonderful writing – so you see the brilliant things people come up with week in and week out. The worst part about judging for Flash! Friday is that you have to choose! Every week there’s about twenty stories I consider for my top choice, plus a bunch more that Carlos liked and, when I re-read them, see them in a different light. Then you say “this is the best one!” Ha! Best! So I’m going to be glad to turn that choosing over to someone else. But thank you to Rebekah for giving me the opportunity to read all these stories and the responsibility of choosing. I only hope I haven’t messed up too much.

Carlos: First off, I’d like to thank Rebekah for giving us this great, safe place to write. She does so much behind the scenes to keep this contest rolling week in and week out. It’s truly inspiring. Believe me when I say, I would probably not be where I am with my writing if it wasn’t for the dragon lair. With that said, if you ever get the opportunity to judge, do it. It not only gives back to this flash fiction community, but your writing will also get better. When you’re up late on Saturday night trying to cut your list of 20 down to 10 and trying to justify why story A should make it and not story B, you really see what separates the good from the spectacular. Then you have to write why that story felt so right (trust me it’s a lot harder than it sounds). But in the end, you start seeing similarities in what makes a story a winner. Once you have that, it’s like: Eureka, I have the secret formula for winning.

Now that we’ve gotten our tears and goodbyes out of the way, let’s get on to what you have been waiting all weekend for.

This week gave us many great stories about prisoners, theaters, prisoners in theaters, and theaters inside of prisoners, but per norm, the unique takes on the prompts are the ones that stood out the most. Also, this week was the first week where we both agreed on the top spot (battle to the death averted).   Now without further ado, let’s get to the winners:

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best description of the man in the photo: Mark A. King, “The Unreliable Narrator.” “…his smouldering Oscar Wilde look about him, his unruly cravat, foppish hair and come-hither eyes.” With this description, we had no need for the photo.

Funniest title: Tamara Shoemaker, “Ungrapeful Audience.” This was a very funny piece that did the title justice.

Cliff hanger that needs an answer:  Clive Tern, “Across the Fourth Wall.” Was Aloise caught or did she fall to the floor? We NEED to know.

Best description of a theater:  Steph Ellis, “Curtain Call.” Amazing description of an abandoned theater. This one did the theme justice.

Angler of the week:  Michael Wettengel, “Inspiration.” This opening line hooked us in, hard.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Andrew Laidlaw, “And Then is Heard No More.” So much story here, and so much yet to tell. We don’t know who the prisoner is or who the guard is, but we know they’re playing roles – the prisoner pretends that he hasn’t been beaten and the guard knows that *how* the prisoner says it could determine what happens to him. We really wanted to read more of this one, so compelling a picture it painted.

Liz Hedgecock, “Monologue.” This was a perfect marriage between humor and horror. Our protagonist is haunted by that one commercial he did. While some seek fame by going viral, this person was destroyed (enslaved) by it. He will forever be the “Oat bar guy” unable to continue his career in acting. Our final verdict for this story “It’s SO good”. 

Phil Coltrane, “Matinee of Torment at the Theater of Lamech.” Starting off like a noir crime story and ending like a foray into the world of Edgar Allen Poe, this tale of one man’s revenge against the woman who had spurned him and his comeuppance was a joy to read. A man who celebrates killing his wife by watching her on the silver screen? What a compelling and remorseless character, Humphrey is.

Carin Marais, “An Audience at Bedlam.” This story is told almost entirely through the audience’s dialogue, and it works well. We get a very strong sense of how the caged man feels.  In a way it’s like the audience is telling us those things. But before we get a chance to feel bad for the man, he lets his ego out, trying to perform for his fans. It’s in this action that we get the feeling that perhaps he did something to deserve being put in the cage.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Mark Morris,Brother Computer’s Final Final Show.”  A takedown of reality television, a dystopian future, and a zombie story all wrapped in one. Quite a lot to put into 209 words! Painted with tons of descriptive terms which set the scene easily (view-screen, time-code, MoltoCon, paddock, dying and already undead), plus some inventive character naming which set the story in a world both like ours and not, we’re brought into the story along with our narrator, Brother Computer. A lovely and sad tale.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Eliza Archer, “The Long Run.” We liked this story because the setting enslaves the character in this one. He is bound by what most other actors seek: success. It is the flipping of traditional beliefs on their heads that makes the story stand out. And the image of the crowd devouring the actor’s soul was very vivid and maniacal. It felt like something from a nightmare.

FIRST RUNNER UP 

Michael Seese, “The Fourth Wall.” This story did a wonderful job of revealing the theater and the prison that can hide within the commonplace. Samantha and Jonathan live the American Dream, but not *their* dream. Terms like “Middle Generica” show that they’re trapped in roles which were defined for them, but which don’t have meaning for them. The picture of ennui and antipathy that the author paints is one which can make us all question our choices – are we living the live we’re choosing to lead, or choosing to live a life that we feel has been chosen for us?

And now: another new member of the Quad Club: celebrating his own FOURTH win, it’s Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

CHRIS MILAM!!!

for

“House Arrest”

The first line “He slid the CD, a meal of memories, into the mouth of the plastic device” took our breath away, and it only got better from there. From “He was a human tree on the couch, rooted in the fabric” to “Newspapers piled up on the porch like black and white firewood”, every description in this was deliciously original and we were beyond envious. This writer showed a strong command of the language, twisting and contorting each word and phrase to tell a great story. The pacing was also well executed. Like the depressed protagonist we lose track of time and slip into the monotonous routine of daily life. Ordinary objects become fantastic (mailboxes gaining weight, lawns turning into extraordinary landscapes), but it doesn’t matter to us because the story also drops us into that dark place. Well done. 

Congratulations, Chris! What a pleasure seeing you nab your FOURTH win! Your writing, often dark and disturbing, always haunting and beautiful, nabs readers’ eyes and imaginations each week, so it’s only fitting. Here’s your updated winner’s page 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:

House Arrest

He slid the CD, a meal of memories, into the mouth of the plastic device. It accepted his offering with a grinding, mechanical thank you, a sound that became his friend over time, his partner in torment.

Images leaked from the television, coating the walls and his face with the chaotic light of evacuation. He was a human tree on the couch, rooted in the fabric, sedentary, except for his eyes. They shimmied in their sockets, pulsating blue, as they drank the beauty on the screen and devoured the colorful silhouettes that crawled through the darkness like radiant serpents.

Over time, he had moved his bed into the basement. And the refrigerator. The microwave. He turned a storage closet into a matchbox bathroom. This theater of solitude became a damp penitentiary of the past. Daily, he slammed the mental bars, turned his key of regret, and did his time.

Newspapers piled up on the porch like black and white firewood. His lawn grew into a suburban savannah. The mailbox gained weight.

Richard couldn’t differentiate between dusk or dawn, snow or sunshine. The outside world was as foreign to him as happiness.

He snatched another CD, stabbed Play. Caged bones and iced soda, their trip to the zoo last summer.

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 19: WINNERS

Howdy, y’all, and welcome to Monday! The Team Three judging captains have arrived at the ceremony hauling carts spilling over with jewels. I apologize in advance if their eagerness to fling them every which way leaves a few bruises. It’s a wild and insane sort of day in the world of flash fiction. (Or are “insane” and “world of flash fiction” redundant?)

Don’t forget to let us know if you’ve submitted stories three Fridays this month and have thereby earned the Ring of Fire badge! Details over here on our mega sparkly Wall of Flame. LOVE seeing this list: y’all are a talented, interesting, and wildly diverse group of writers. What an honor to read your work and get to know you a bit. Thank you! 

Finally: let me encourage you again (warning: you’ll hear me repeat this frequently over the next couple of weeks) to consider applying to take a turn as a dragon captain judge for the next term. I love the apps that have already come in; wheeeeeeeeeeee doggies, are we going to finish off Year Three in style! Details here

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Dragon Captains Eric Martell/Carlos Orozco sayWhat a great week of stories. This round was one of the most difficult to judge. Not only because all the food references made us hungry (ok, we won’t lie. That did have something to do with it), but because every story had something unique that made it difficult to count out. This week our top tens only had one story in common (goes to show how great all the stories were). As a reminder, we favored those stories that used the kitchen setting the strongest. Your story could have been phenomenal, but if it simply mentioned a kitchen (doesn’t really count as setting), it wasn’t rated as highly. We should note that if any of you ever go to prison, we’re not eating what you’ve cooked up. 🙂

Now see if your story was sliced and diced or if it made its way to the winners circle. . .

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Should be a TV Show: Nancy Chenier, “Palladium Chef.” This is a show we would definitely tune in for. The commentators are phenomenal.

Best Bait: Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “Trespasser.” First line we bit, second line we were hooked. It was a simple yet enticing intro.

Kill-tacular: Mark Morris, “Death by Caramel.” Lots of deaths this week, but this was one of the most creative. We hope we are never left alone with this writer (we kid…maybe).

Chubby Checker Award: Nancy Chenier, “Keep Out.” This story packs a twist that would make Chubby Checker proud.

Thank you for posting an untitled story Award, Part OneKaija Marasðottir, “Untitled.” “Adeline could see the docks…” Fog hides the secrets we wish we could see and the ones we wish would stay hidden forever.

Thank you for posting an untitled story Award, Part TwoColin D. Smith, “Untitled.” “I hear the voice of Miss Scully…” Childhood is hard, but sometimes we’re told right from wrong, and can choose the better path. When we’re adults, however…

Best Use of the Supernatural AwardCarin Marais, “Fairy Cakes.” What’s on the other side of the wall? Which side are we on? How tasty do those cakes sound? Very tasty.

Best Use of a Dragon Queen AwardMark A. King,The Superhero Alchemist.” All of you are alchemists in your own right, spinning gold out of less than straw. And to our Dragon Queen, you’re all superheroes. {Editor’s Note: ❤ ❤ ❤ times a million.}

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Liz Hedgecock, “Ping.” What we liked about this one was circular nature of the piece. It starts off with someone buying a microwave dinner for one and ends the same way, but in between there is lots of character development. In a few short lines the writer makes two characters come to life which is always impressive.

Casey Rose Frank, “Too Awful to Eat.” Worrying about a child that is constantly in trouble is every parents’ nightmare because that one mistake that makes it impossible to go back lurks right around the corner. That’s exactly what we have here. We could envision the mother slaving away in the kitchen trying to drive out the stress by baking, but finding her food didn’t offer any respite. This was a very believable and well portrayed mother character.

Reg Wulff, Someone’s in the Kitchen With Dinah.” This was a beautiful little story, interspersing the lyrics of what is primarily a children’s song with the story of heartbreak, loss, abandonment, and moving on. So much of a world painted in just a few lines. You can’t help but be a little happy for Dinah that she finally found a man who didn’t see her as a backup to his job.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Voima Oy, “Hell’s Kitchen.” How can you not wonder at the otherworldly skill of a chef who uses ingredients such as the breath of a three year-old child or the tears of a woman in love? You know that he has powers which enable him to do great evil in the service of an artistry that perhaps only he can see. And then to weave his story into that of this prison, whether literally or figuratively Hell, where the only food he can prepare burns like the lakes of lava, but the guards live a life of comfort and ease, took a writer of great skill.

FIRST RUNNERS UP (TIE)

Josh Bertetta, “Cell Block.” The tragic story of a man trapped in a prison of his own making. This story masterfully integrated the two prompts this week, setting the whole tale in a kitchen which also served as a prison for a life-long sentence. The prison this man works in as a guard has damaged him, but less so that his secession from his life and his marriage. Matching the first and last lines took us from what could have been a pretty straightforward tale of a man at his post, guarding a prison of ice and snow, into an inner world of suffering and loneliness. The kind of a story which can break your heart, because you want to reach out to the characters and help them find their way back together, but you just … can’t.

Sherry Howard, “Our Father’s Grace.” This story had the best title this week. After reading the story, the title definitely seemed fitting in both the literal sense (the story opens with a father saying grace) and in the sense of it being ironic (the father is very mean). The description of hungry children around the kitchen table is sharp and poignant.  The father’s character is made real by the children’s matter-of-fact descriptions of him such as “Begging by one resulted in restrictions for all” and “He’d ruined many a night with his three-year-old enthusiasms. He’d learn eventually. We all did.” 

And now: for his 3rd win, it’s massively talented Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

CHRIS MILAM!!!

for

“Sanctuary”

This story did the best at fulfilling the required story element. At first, we are shown a kitchen in which there is not much, but it is a happy kitchen nonetheless. Then the father gets there and the once happy kitchen changes into something ugly. It’s almost as if we hit a daily double with the setting, getting two settings in one.

Describing the times of plenty as “Foodstamp Nirvana” really strikes a chord showing us how little these characters have. Also the description of the bananas as “fibrous wafers of a solidified disease” and the fragile hand pouring milk seems to hint at some underlying problem. We get another hint of a problem when we read that “She dissolved” toward the end of the story. The fact that the main character never fully states a problem helps set up a certain mood. We get the feeling that something’s wrong and it pulses at the back of our minds. This was good writing and it was well executed.  

Congratulations, Chris! What a blast seeing you at the top again (that dragon crown looks mighty fine on you). Here’s your fancy dragon winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox with interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Sanctuary

There was love in the way she poured milk on my cereal. The plastic jug tilted by a fragile hand, filling the bowl halfway. Just how I liked it. A motherly wink when she prodded me to eat the banana slices sitting atop the sugary concoction like fibrous wafers of a solidified disease. I ate them for her.

The first of the month was our food jamboree. The bologna and tuna casserole were replaced by fresh ground beef, homemade tacos with a dollop of sour cream, and an unhealthy dose of raspberry sherbet. Food stamp nirvana, she called it, before vanishing for the graveyard shift. When she cooked, she seemed happy, like she was making up for lost time. Our kitchen was her aromatic church.

When dad was released from prison, mom changed. The kitchen changed. Pop would smolder at the table, chain-smoking unfiltered cigarettes, while accusing her of cheating when he was gone. The neighbor, a coworker, anyone with testosterone. Eventually, she retreated to the bedroom, forcing us to survive on cheese and uncooked hot dogs.

She dissolved after that. My father’s insecurities turned her into a human stew of anxiety. But, decades later, I can still picture her in our kitchen, her luminous smile a bursting peppermint star.

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