Good morning! Thank you so much for your overwhelming, loving support following Friday’s announcement that I’m closing up shop after December 11’s Flashversary. I’ll have more to say on that over the next three weeks, but today belongs to you; today is not my farewell — not yet –, but Steph & Josh’s (much as you and they are conspiring to keep me in tears for the next three weeks!).
**NOTE!** We still have a couple more global #Spotlight interviews ahead: please join us tomorrow for a trip to Bulgaria with Cindy Vaskova!
And now: a mountain’s height of thanks to Dragon Team Six, Steph Ellis and Josh Bertetta. We should perhaps be a little frightened and/or impressed by the sychronization of your judging thoughts — both of you should probably tuck that away for future use somewhere! It’s been a great honor serving the community alongside you. Thank you for your clever sifting of stories, for your generous comments, for your faithful support of flash fiction and this community in particular. Above all, thank you for contributing your own powerfully unique talents by sharing your stories here. We are so grateful to and for you.
Here are Dragon Team Six’s final comments, crystallized by Steph, who apparently has no respect for my deteriorating supply of tissues:
SE: I was feeling somewhat sad that my time as a judge was coming to an end at Flash! Friday but then came that bombshell from Rebekah about the closure of the site, an announcement which I must say left me feeling almost bereft. I’ve just had a scan through the Flash! Friday archives and found my first entry back in October of last year. I find myself amazed that it’s only a matter of some 13 months and not longer; this particular competition has become such a huge part of my life giving my week a writerly structure that I have followed (more-or-less) religiously. What will I do? What will we all do? Well, we’ll carry on writing as she has trained us so well: we will continue with the familiar (MicroBookends, Three Line Thursday, FlashDogs anthologies, Angry Hourglass) and attempt new pastures. So the gap will be filled, but it will not be the same. I do have some more to say to Rebekah, but those words you will find in some of my responses to the stories below.
As it’s my last week I would also like to pay tribute to my partner-in-crime Josh Bertetta. I know he has been unable to take part this week for personal reasons and I missed our few minutes of haggling across the pond. And when I say few, I mean few. Nearly every single time, at least half, if not more, of our choices matched; and where they didn’t, we quite often found that we had similar choices ‘bubbling under’ which allowed us room to manoeuvre.
I would also like to thank my lovely eldest daughter for her efforts in stripping the Flash stories for me, especially as she tends to work late; whether it was Bob Dylan or The 1975, she still managed to wake up not too long before noon and get the stories to me and Josh! For that I have rewarded her with a Korean Vegetarian cookbook – as you do.
And one more big thank you – to all of you who have provided us with such wonderful stories to read. Keep writing and submitting. We will see you here until the finish, and hopefully we will continue across the Flashverse, taking our stories into unchartered territories and cheering each other on.
Now, without further ado, let the drum roll begin …
Brady Koch, “Bougainvillea.” An apparently innocent start to the story, a young man returns home having travelled the world, for what you would think would be a much-wanted reunion with is family. But instead we are faced with him drawing a plant whose leaf ‘grew out of the long-picked skull of the artist’s father’. Then we discover that not only is there a skull, but a knife in the rib-cage, put there by our returnee. Not quite the reunion expected. Nicely dark.
James Atkinson, “Times Change.” A warning to those who would promote isolationism. Initially the families were separate enough when their village’s isolation first occurred for there to be no problems in terms of marriage but as time passed cousins married cousins so that eventually all became closely related. This seems to concern only our narrator. He recognises that they need ‘another supply drop’ but implies this would be not of goods but of people to refresh and strengthen the gene pool; this latter a good example of showing not telling.
Bill Engleson, “Sweetapple Dodds.” Great pulp fiction tone to the narration of this story. The agent’s in his office and in she walks ‘Hell, you could smell the country on her’, ‘wiggling her fanny as if she’s revving up for the Indy 500’. He feels sorry for her but he has an ulterior motive, he ‘could see potential, a tremendous chassis’. Wonderful language and a fun read.
Firdaus Parvez, “Born With the Devil.” I think everyone imagines twins are born with that unbreakable bond, where one would do anything for the other. You certainly don’t expect them to be so different that the sister hates her brother to the extent that she would slit her wrists and ensure not only his death, but her own. Unique take on the bond between twins.
Charles W. Short, “The Captain’s Calling.”
An homage to Flash! Friday (Dragonwraith) and its Captain (Rebekah) and an unashamed placing. This one is slightly different in that it is the creation of Flash! Friday in a world in which flash was almost an orphan. She built the ship, which grew larger, was a ‘spokeswoman for her cause’ and developed her vision until other ‘Teams developed, friendships formed, and entirely new classifications of vessels took shape’. We have all seen how the flash world had grown, we all meet up on other sites, not just on this ship so that now we can give the Captain the freedom to take her own path. ‘A new calling awaits the captain, and she has the proven courage to undertake it.’
Michael Wettengel, “May-Born.”
I love the personification of Ambition and Inspiration, those little devils that assail us all but which often never seem to work together, as in this particular story. Inspiration is intent on wrapping himself up ‘like he’s spinning a cocoon’ whilst Ambition ‘walks and fumes’. (I will whisper now, I am a May baby so I huff occasionally too). The deadline hits and they run out of time and Ambition isn’t happy with the rambling end. But the author walks away to look at the falling snow, as sometimes you have to.
Holly Geely, “Cousin Jackson“
Of course I would place a story with a good pun, especially one which worked itself out so easily. I had no idea it was coming (I mean, a banana plantation in a non-tropical climate?? how did I not see it?) but there it was, waiting, a perfect little gem to be discovered at the end.
Michael Seese, “In Here.”
This trapped me as soon as elephants on shoulders were mentioned. I knew at this point something crazy was going on, the writing bringing to mind the madness of Carroll’s Wonderland. The MC, a child, has occasional glimpses of sanity ‘when the mists clear,’ but she cannot leave her world where there are ‘Pixie Stix’ trees and ‘priests in prehistoric garb’ as well as mocking marionettes. And even though she wants to leave, her mother tells her, ‘You can never leave this place, dear child. Insanity is your home. Wonderfully crazy.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Nthato Morakabi, “What Child Is This?“
The God Delusion! Casting Dawkins as a priest, working from the inside of religion to subvert its message was a very clever ruse. Dawkins has pretended to be a priest and foretold the end of the world, indicating certain signs, for example the baby with the pig’s tail would foreshadow it. The nurse’s message brings him joy, he has been proved right. But it is a scene he has manipulated (he has no ‘virtue’) by adding chemicals to the water supply so that mutations occur. He has used science, he had ‘faith’ that science would make these changes. Now science supplants religion, it has become the new faith. Nice inversion.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Karl Russell, “One Day, in the Square”
This is a story about self-belief and self-worth. There are so many talented people in this world who just never show what they are capable of. The old man who appears at Juan’s side and gives him such good advice turns out to be the ghost of a musician who’d only just died. He had been a brilliant guitarist but had never followed the advice he now gave Juan, leading him to his sad ending on the bench by the fountain. He had wasted his talent and played for the pigeons. But his ghost returned and hopefully Juan will take his guitar and play to people and not to the birds. I must admit to a soft spot for this story as I have a son who is a talented guitarist but already he is playing for people. And to all those of you who think your writing’s not good enough to send out, well, if you’ve been submitting here, you’re definitely good enough – take that step and find your audience.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Mark A. King, “Genesis.”
How could I not choose something like this considering our Dragoness’ recent announcement? This acrostic builds a true and heartfelt tribute to Rebekah for all her efforts on our behalf. All of us have fought, as writers, to find our niche, we have all lived ‘in the wilderness’, seeking ‘the lands of promise’, the bookshop windows, we were all ‘alone’. But she created a place for us, a ‘fortress’ where we could hone our skills and become strong enough to challenge the ‘elite’, where we could make friends and recognise that our own writing has worth. Through this platform and the support and comments given so freely and generously week in, week out, we have developed to the extent that many are now pushing onwards and upwards, and some have even made it into the bookshop window. Things are changing indeed, but it is not goodbye. We no longer need a fortress: we have a world. This piece was a lovely way for us all to say Thank you, Rebekah.
And now: for her gorgeous, fantastic, stirring FOURTH win, it’s this week’s
“To Care: More Than Just an Action“
A poem has claimed first place this week with a message that needs to be heard on a larger platform. The army of carers that is out there amongst us is large but invisible: the husbands and wives having to care for both elderly parents and young children, young children caring for parents or siblings, an elderly wife, herself frail having to care for her husband and vice versa. This army does so much and their efforts go largely unnoticed and unrewarded but they do it even though they are so often at breaking point – ‘She cares/Until she screams’, ‘You care/Until you break’, ‘I care/Until I reach the edge’ – but they always ‘care some more’.
Short lines, consistent repetition from different viewpoints punch the message home and wrings out the emotions, the feelings that at times seek to destroy the carer . We are not allowed to be separate from the message of this poem, we are part of it because ‘We. Should. Care’. Simple. Powerful. Effective.
Congratulations, Marie! Thrilled to see you take your fourth crown this week, which you’ve done and drawn our attention to this underappreciated cause. Thank you so much for sharing this achingly beautiful poem. Here’s your updated winner’s page — a page that includes your winning tales dating back to your very first in Year One (Week 26!!!! darling thing, still here after so long!!). Please watch your inbox for instructions regarding your interview for your fourth #SixtySeconds! And now here’s your winning story:
To Care: More Than Just an Action
*inspired by Carers’ Rights Day in the UK
my hands raw;
my eyes black;
my arms sore;
my hair out.
I care way beyond my own lifetime.
yourself to sleep;
You care yourself lost.
She cares herself away.
He cares himself blue.
They care to the quick.
until I can’t, and then I care some more.
until you cry, and then you care some more.
until she screams, and then she cares some more.
until I reach the edge, and then I care some more.
until you break, and then you care some more.
until he says he won’t, and then he cares some more.
We. Should. Care.