Welcome back! We’re racing faster and faster to the end of Flash! Friday’s second year. Probably you all are quite cool about this, but I’m a manic WRECK. Guest judges of astonishing caliber joining us! Flashversary (Dec 5) parties to plan! Fun stuff lurking in the wings for Year Three! And just WAIT, y’all, til you see who’s on the next FF judge panel. Let me say I may not be the only one fainting.
Anyway. Thanks to everyone for coming out again this week for another fantastic round of flash fiction. Monkeys and authors? Who could have guessed the hijinks you connived for your longsuffering protagonists.
:hands out boxes of tissues: And now, my darlings, brace yourselves, as today we are forced (FORCED, I tell you) to bid a final farewell to the final judge of this past judge panel. Margaret Locke has long been a respected name here in the lair, a reputation her tenure as judge further confirmed. You’ve done some fine judgery here, Miz Locke. Thank you for bringing your own special brand of spice and flair each round. You’ve been amazing, and your eye will be missed! Thank you so much for giving of your time and heart to the Flash! Friday community.
Judge Margaret Locke says: The first time Our Lady Dragonness asked me to judge, I turned her down. Who was I, lowly newbie romance and flash writer, to dare comment on, much less JUDGE, the numerous stories people craft each week? The second time, I said yes (I was worried she’d flambé me if I refused again). I’m so glad I did — it has been eye-opening to sit on this side of the bench, really having to immerse myself in each and every tale, having to figure out why certain pieces resonated with me more than others, and having to qualify my choices. I’m sure it’s sharpened my eye when it comes to evaluating my own writing.
The truth is, a lot of judging is subjective. Yes, one can look at spelling and grammar and flow and analyze a variety of things quite objectively, but when it comes right down to it, the stories that have grabbed me the most often have done so at an emotional, instinctual level. They resonate with me in ways not easily explained. I mention this as a reminder to everyone (including me, as I ride yet another wave of agent rejections) that just because I or some other judge or an agent or a publisher doesn’t pick a particular work doesn’t mean that work isn’t worthy of being picked! Amazing stories get passed by every day. Keep writing. Keep writing and honing the craft. Keep going. There is so much joy in the process, as well as in the product.
THANK YOU for this opportunity; I remain humbled and in awe of the amazingly talented crop of writers who show up week after week, weaving unique and entertaining short (short!) stories that exemplify the best in wordsmithing.
Moving on to results: You people are smart. Like, scarily so. I had to spend so much time on the good old Internets looking up literary references and educating myself on various famous authors to ensure I was catching the wicked brilliance of so many of these stories. I’m still worried (and sure) I missed something! We had literal monkeys, figurative monkeys, authors as main characters, authors as references, hilarious tales, and tales of woe. Thank you for making my final week of judging such a wonderful (and challenging) one!
And since it was my last week of judging, I decided I didn’t have to limit my mentions quite so much. Right? Right?!
Monkey drum roll, please….
Geoff Le Pard, “Between Rock and Hard Place.” Great incorporation of authors and quick references to their works made this fun to read, as I tried to see if I caught all of the references.
Mark Driskill, “The Intruders.” In the same vein of “Between Rock,” and yet so badly punny, it was awesome.
UK_MJ, “Wild Kingdom.” I enjoyed the very real-feeling encapsulation of sibling rivalry, and that the concept of “wild kingdom” aptly reflects more on the humans in this story than the animal.
Emily Street, “Vestigial Tale.” Loved the punny title in a well-written story.
Nancy Chenier, “Rice-Paper Battlefield.” For choosing an eastern female author!
Best Title: joidianne4eva, “Love Me Tender, Love Me Sweet.” I’m an Elvis fan, so this title immediately caught my eye; but it also renders what follows that much more horrific.
Best Line: Shane Wilson, “Treating Herself.” “He gave her everything she ever wanted—except for space.” Oh, how this line hit me.
Best Last Line: Alissa Leonard, “The Things I Do For You.” “I can get you six feet closer to the center of the earth.” Wonderful play on words with Jules Verne!
Best Clever Conceit: ImageRonin, “Red Rum.” I’m sure for those of you more familiar with Stephen King, this take off of The Shining was instantly recognizable. Not so for me, but after Googling and figuring it out, I appreciated the weaving of a fictional character’s life into a small tale that hints at the larger one.
David Borrowdale, “Inspiration is Everywhere.” I was instantly hooked with the play on words between Simian and Simenon (whom I also had to look up; apparently I’ve never read anything). I loved the contrast between what Simenon actually wanted versus what he experienced. I assumed that the Hotel Majestic really IS majestic, and what he will write will be exactly opposite of what he himself at that moment was experiencing. Great contrasts in a well-written, well-executed tale.
Michael Seese, “Falling From Grace.” This story stuck out for its completely different subject matter and approach. I love the irreverent tone, the stark contrast of modern and ancient in exquisite lines such as this: “The psychologists sang hymns of ‘addictive personality.’ The doctors read the scripture of ‘chemical imbalance.’” An ethereal, ageless being subjecting himself to modern drugs/shock treatments? A suicidal angel? The whole premise hooked me exactly because those ideas at first would seem to be opposites.
VB Holmes, “Hotel l’Alsace.” Well-written and moving. I looked up the Hotel l’Alsace to see what author(s) had committed suicide there. Oscar Wilde died there, but of illness, not by his own hand. So I’m left wondering if this piece is referencing a real or fictional author. In any case, the language is beautiful and encapsulates the despairing mood. The simple listing of all the ills that had befallen this man was heart-wrenching.
Marie McKay, “Monkey See, Monkey Do.” Yes, I had to Google Boulle to learn he was the author of Planet of the Apes, and while this story wasn’t the first to reference that book, the repeated pattern in the middle very effectively renders the story that much more terrifying.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Tamara Shoemaker, “The Story.” I appreciated the unique take of this story, the interweaving of both the famous author and monkey, as required by the prompt, but in less literal ways. The language flows so well, with wonderful, visually evocative phrasings such as “the slender blonde with the army cap tilted at a jaunty angle,” and “his chin wobbl[ing] beneath the years of repressed grief.” My romantic heart broke in the space of a few, short words. The last line in particular frames the whole story and its characters well, capturing the painful dynamic between the central couple.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Michael Simko, “Risk.” I absolutely love the opening paragraph of this story; I was instantly hooked. Hitting upon Passepartout, I had to Google him to learn he was the (fictional) valet to main character Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s Around The World In Eighty Days, and then I had to read enough (see? you people made me work this week!) to know Phileas, at first, is the exact opposite of a risk taker. But even if one took out the paragraph with Passepartout and the references to Verne, the story stands on its own and resonates with me – perhaps because I am not generally a risk-taker, myself. Well-written with wonderful imagery.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Brian S. Creek, “Infinite Monkey Theorem.” Other stories touched on the infinite monkey theorem, the idea that “a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a give text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare” (thanks, Wikipedia!), but this piece, rendered entirely in crisp dialogue, utilized it perfectly. I kept coming back to this one and its hilarious last line: “Well, it turns out it requires only one and it takes about six months.” I’m still giggling.
And now: for her very first time, it’s Flash! Friday
“Merely This and Nothing More”
Poe is never overtly named in this story, but the language to me invokes his style, even beyond the title and the final word. And yet I had the sneaking suspicion this Story Teller was referencing authors beyond Poe; from Googling “fifteen dead men dancing on a chest,” I learned that phrase hails from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. “Beasts growing listless in ancient temples beneath the waves” made me think of Atlantis. What other references am I missing? The whole tale is rich in imagery. The second paragraph I have read numerous times, basking in its exquisiteness of expression. Thank you, Carin, for this marvelous story! Well done!
Congratulations, Carin! Below is your neon bright winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your very own, brand new, super duper marvelous 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!
Merely This and Nothing More
If on a summer’s day a Story Teller was to exit Hotel L–, she would find herself on the road leading to the harbour. If she walked, her mind would drift through centuries of memories. If she remembered, she would colour memories to adventures, hovels to palaces, obstacles to giants. If she stood on the shore she would recall all the memories of all the ages. Cities. Armies. Voyages. Adventures. Sorrow. Love. Fear. Beasts growing listless in ancient temples beneath the waves.
If she was to tell all these memories to the ocean, she would slowly sink into a story herself: her voice caught in sea foam, her secrets bound in a chest on the ocean floor where fifteen dead men danced, her stories travelling through countries, years, and centuries before being caught by ink.
She asked if her own words, those grains of sand, would be remembered.
She did not wait for an answer, lest it was “nevermore”.