Friday, February 19, 2016

Treasure chest writing contest!

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To celebrate the spiffy new spread sheet of all the writing contest winners, it's a writing contest!
(Of course!)

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:
tank
chest
tray
sure
smith


3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.
Thus: tank/stank is ok but smith/smiteth is not.

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

6. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

8. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

9. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.
Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

10. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

11. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

12. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.


Contest opens: Saturday 2/20/16 at 10am

Contest closes: Sunday 2/21/16 at 10am

If you're wondering how much time you have before the contest closes:

Countdown clock

If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's
an .xls spreadsheet here
(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?

Not yet!
ENTER! 
oh rats, too late. Contest closed.



83 comments:

Steve Forti said...

“Milton Walloughby was a cantankerous old sod. He’d ice his walkway, call the cops on trick-or-treaters. Surely, you hated him. But he was nice to me.”

I scan the pews. “You see me an outcast. A quiet boy gone astray. Only he paid me mind.”

Holding up my hand, a rainbow projects from the prism. “I think reality is not always what you see. So I orchestrated this night, as a thank you to Milton.”

I smile, fangs prominent and stained red. The old man rises from his coffin, a hunger in his eyes and a panic in the crowd.

tamarashoemaker said...

Tamara Shoemaker
@TamaraShoemaker
Word Count: 100
#Flashdog

Mom's chest of drawers betrays the secret first, its wonderland of sweaters and tank tops and jeans folding a dense covering over it, veiling it from sight.

It hid beneath a silky camisole, its creamy, thick paper a labyrinth of neat paragraphs, the loops of her signature a tangle of dark, sure strokes near the bottom.

The words are ordered with care, the work of a wordsmith, but the title at the top is a dagger that stabs me, twisting into the sinews of my mind, severing the implicit trust of a lifetime with a single plunge:

Certificate of Adoption.

Jason Magnason said...

Detective Johnson was on site of the fourth homicide in as many days. The killer wasn’t

worried about them finding evidence, because he left trays of it on his victim’s

chests. It’s too early to know for sure, if this one was his or not, but from

the close proximity to the rest, Johnson would assume it was for now. There was no

pattern. These people were random, with nothing in common. Matt Smith,

Marco Tank, Lucas Holmes, and now this John Doe. Wait a minute, Johnson looked back

at the names on the report, Mathew, Marco, Lucas, John. Acts!

Amanda Capper said...

And the smithy commanded, “Behold, beasts, the treasure on this tray.”

We beheld as best we could, but saw nothing.

Smithy ran reaper-type fingers through the fur on my chest. “You, the most beastly, the most beautiful of all. Describe the prize.”

Moving away, I whispered, “Surely not,” then slid my glance sideways to the shadows, to freedom. “Words fail me.”

He crept closer. He stank. “’Tis your future, bitch.”

I nodded, accepted it, took one last look at the silver on silver, then followed the others as they slunk away. “But not my present, Smithy. Not my today.”

S.P. Bowers said...

Smith’s abundant chest, carefully tucked into a tankini, didn’t look like it would stay there. I pulled another wallet from someone’s shoe, sure they wouldn’t notice. Pool was crowded but the guys were waiting for an explosion. Moms, were trying to ‘do something’ about it. Once one had wrapped Smith in a towel and gave her a motherly lecture. I lifted another fifty. I gave Smith a nod, heading for the door. She would follow in ten, swimsuit intact, to the dismay of every male here. I swiped a smoothie off a tray. It was hot work, after all

Colin Smith said...

Chantelle lowered her hand into the tank and, with gentle fingers, stroked Michael's chest, feeling his little lungs fight the odds.

Seven weeks premature.

She gazed through tears, overcome with guilt. Surely Michael was being punished for her sin? An act of betrayal in an empty marriage, filling an emotional chasm. It hurt to be reminded by this helpless child.

But it hurt more that Julian hadn't understood. He wanted her to abort. She didn't want to commit murder.

But when he tried to force her, she had no choice.

"Visiting time's up, ma'am."

Chantelle followed the police officer out.

Craig said...

The Smith handed me a tankard and turned to the great chest. With a surety I had not seen for a while she pulled out several trays and started setting things on the counter.

“What is all of this crap?”

“It’s all the stuff that was used last time.”

“What do you mean by last time?”

“Five hundred years ago there was another.”

“I would love to sit and discuss this but it has my wife.”

“They thought it was the only one and made it into a legend. Why do you think your family name is St. George?”

wordwacker.me said...

Meagan adjusted her veil. It made everything look gray. The air stank of lilies, unbreathable. Her composure was in smithereens. Was it too late to run? She focused on Joseph, waiting patiently at the end of the aisle.

"Lots of people here," Father said. I bet Raymond came, Meagan thought, to remind me of my first love. Probably that bitch Esther, too, pretending she and Joseph were "just friends." Meagan shook the thoughts away. Not today.

She trudged down the aisle on Father's arm, eyes behind the black lace locked on Joseph, lying among the flowers. So patient. So lifelike.

christine edwards said...

Smith plopped into the cage with only a sure smile and a bang stick. The first shark darted past with a wicked ferocity that triggered a primal fear in the novice diver. When he told the story over a tray of wings tonight, he’d call it a healthy respect. But in the moment, the feeling in his chest could go by no other name. The second shark was built like a tank and approached with more conviction than the first. He railed at the cage with a vicious intensity even after Smith abandoned his pride and surfaced.

Unknown said...

GOODBYE

The tank was full, her bags packed, the travel chest was filled. A drive to the airport and his darling would fly away, facing a fold up tray. Sure, he already missed her, but he wanted to keep it together.
The drive was a blur of lyrics as she sang to the radio. They arrived, his smile faded. He broke, held her close, tears on his face.
“You listen, Miss. Smith, you got a home here.” Her smile was gone. ‘Why did I do that?’ She turned away, a tear leaked. She didn’t want him to see, her regret.

Kate Higgins said...

The Revolution

Bright rays of morning sun pierce the smoky darkness. Stokes the Smithy wipes the sweat from his forehead and sighs, he is finished, he is sure the iron portmanteau is the perfect fit for any jewels, any princess.

The man with a patch on his eye will arrive at dawn to take it to her.

Later in a far off place, the box drifts deeply into a saltwater world until, if ever, it is retrieved.

Princess admires her new treasure chest with every revolution of her lonely, glass world.
Her tank never looked so beautiful.

Oh...look...a castle!

Irene Olson said...

The tank top barely covered her naughty bits. If Derrick could work around her yard sans shirt with a chest crowning the six pack he was offering her on a silver tray, she sure could offer herself while she snipped blooms from the Smith & Hawken roses at the edge of her patio.

“Oops! I seem to have dropped the cutting shears!” She bent, angling her luscious behind in his direction.

But Derrick was on his phone. “Hey, Brian, we still on for later? … I’m almost done here … Love you too … See you soon.”

lizosisek said...

Target sighted.

Jack aimed his ship’s guns at the Mustank. The smiths did a good job with her – sleek, elegant body, speed ten thousand times that of the quadropeds that were her namesake.

Too bad her auto-pilot went rogue. Fleets of civilians had been hunted by this monster.

Jack put the slightest pressure on the trigger. His chest squeezed as the Mustank blew, and he said a silent prayer for the engineer trapped onboard. Mom.

It’d been one life for thousands. Dad would understand.

A light blinked in Jack’s notification tray – missed comm from Mustank490.

A.I. disabled. Abort attack.

Christina Seine said...

They stood there while our boat was lowered. The richest couple on the ship, but they wouldn’t leave.

People tried to force the old lady in with us, but in measured tones she told them all to go to hell.

“I will stay with my husband.” And he kissed her, so gently.

The orchestra was playing and I thought who cares about music now, when this ship has betrayed us?

But later, when the ship broke into smithereens and the lights all vanished and the screams withered silent and the ocean stank of death, that music lingered. And that kiss.

scaryazeri said...

She lay there, silent. He pulled her torn tank top together, carefully avoiding touching the exposed chest. “You sure you’re ok?” She did not reply, face wet from tears. “For fuck’s sake, you were offering yourself on a tray!” He cried, jumping up.

Why was she behaving like a slut if she was a virgin? Wearing these clothes, dancing like that?

“Come on”, he said, helping her sit up. “Let’s get you home. What was your name again?”

She stared at him, eyes huge in the dark.

“Jenny”, she whispered. “Jenny Smith”. He knew he could never forget that name.

Dena Pawling said...


She wore a tank top and jeans. No one noticed -- their eyes on her chest.

Sure is fine, they'd say.

Mighty fine, came an echo.

Yep, mighty fine.

And it's mine.

Happy hour's the worst. Tips were good -- their eyes on her chest.

Don't want you workin' no more, I'd said.

I can handle it, she'd said.

It's not you, I'd said.

You're mine.

Eyes strayed too many times. My blood boiled -- their eyes on her chest.

You're done, I said.

Make me, she said.

I did.

She's mine.

Locksmith came at dawn. Now only -- my eyes on her chest.

Matthew Wuertz said...

“What’s in the tank?”

Masashi puffed his chest. “Nothing, sir.”

Tom laughed. “I already signed off on your ship’s inspection. What is it – Martian whiskey? Man, we cleaned up with that last time.”

Masashi grinned. “Really, it’s nothing.”

Tom stepped past, but Masashi grabbed him.

“Hey. I at least need to ensure it’s not toxic to Earth.”

“Sorry. Just a spasm, I think.”

Tom opened the door. “Are these Martian colonists?”

“They’re starving.”

“You can’t bring back strays! This isn’t like smuggling whiskey. We could be jailed.”

“They’ll die on Mars.”

Tom turned away, sighing. “Better be whiskey next time.”

Sherry Howard said...

The paw prints on the floor displayed ganache, proof of the felines’ enjoyment of birthday cake, mixed with blood from their attempts to waken their mistress.

Terwilliger had arrived with cheese tray in one hand and panache in the other, not to mention the tan purchased by the life savings of the elderly he fleeced with surety and skill. While he raised his tankard to good health, he shortened life expectancies and bank accounts.

Mrs. Smith had been warned. The struggle was real, but it was old Terwilliger’s chest that got blown to smithereens this time. Justifiable homicide at worst.

Megan V said...

Prison wasn’t bad for an ice chest filled by cold-hearted betrayal. I got three squares, a bunk, and cellmates most folks would rather kill than live with. I even got contact visitation with my dear sister, Syl.
Syl sat at the same plastic, piece of shit table every Monday. Me? I always greeted her with a birdie. This Monday was no different.
“Look,” Syl muttered. “ I’m sorry the safe plan tanked, but it wasn’t my fault.”
I shrugged.
“Don’t you got anything to say to me?” she whined.
Sure.” I spat. “Next time you be the locksmith. I’ll drive.”

Amy Schaefer said...

Full disclosure: I’m a part-time asshole.

But the Reincarnation Review Panel was unfairly harsh. I was chillin’ like a villain on the astral plane when – boom! Slapped with a “Failure to Seek Enlightenment.”

I stumbled from the hearing, hopes smashed to smithereens. One of the judges appeared at my shoulder. He stank of virtue and cats.

“I can fix this,” he murmured.

A judge gone astray. “Deal. Anything. Just give me music, kissing, and dancing.”

We shook hands. The other judges appeared.

Entrapped. Motherfucker.

Now my soul resides in the tuba mouthpiece in Dr Oetker’s Bavarian Oompah Dance Orchestra.

Bwaap.

Marie Wallace said...

Near barking dogs that do not bite,
Descend to hell, emerge in light.
Enter the building with a thousand stories,
My silver face hides golden glories.


Measured steps and a treasure map lead the Riddlesmith through Dogwood Forest, down spiraled staircases below Dante’s Cairn, to a subterranean library.

“More like underwater fish tank.”

Craning his neck to slanted sunlight in murky waters, his chest heaves. Panic betrays him at the bottom of Gloom Lake.

Days pass. Weeks. Months.

Trapped only by will, he dies beneath books of every color but silver.
His final realization frozen in the mirror behind them.

RKeelan said...

The mean girls called her a stray. Lank hair. No chest. Always wore dirty tank tops. Even in the winter. Surely surly Shirley. That was her name, in the hallways and the classrooms.

I liked to watch her. Always in the library, writing in her diary. She was an anachronism, I think. Sweet, though.

One day, she strode up, handed me that diary, and strode off.

A lot of us questioned a lot of things, after she did what she did.

None more so than me.

Susan said...

There’s a cracked fish tank sitting on the grass, wedged between a mailbox with peeling numbers and a cardboard box marked ‘Free.’ In the driveway, a cedar chest waits next to tables covered in naked Barbies and stained ice trays and a stack of measuring cups still containing grains of rice.

“My husband’s.” The woman beside me smiles and nods at the faded The Smiths t-shirt in my hands. “His first concert—pretty sure it was his first date, too. Cute, huh?”

I don’t let go of the shirt. I can’t.

A quarter for a memory. Thirty years too late.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

They found the plane but not the body. Where'd it go, then? Fuckin' aliens? The whole thing stank.
It was that new guy's fault, our 'locksmith' with the C4. Pressed the panic button. By accident.
Wham, police.
Bam hustled into some mobster's plane,
Thank you ma'am, jumping with parachutes.
Needed one more.

Now the body's MIA. Fuck that. I wasn't born yesterday; I know when I've been snitched. Betrayed.
The warchest is empty, sure. Never stopped me before.
Those bitches at the precinct will pay.
Got fifty eyes on me, waiting. Still got our guns.
"Payback's a bitch."

Claire said...

The blue light in the fish tank flickers. On the television, a man in an orange jumpsuit gesticulates soundlessly. A waitress sails out from the kitchen, her ample chest rising majestically above her tray. Under his shirt, the vest feels heavy and warm, like a small animal curled around him.

The diner is full, five minutes before noon.

She places a cup of coffee before him. His mouth is dry, the “Thank you” almost inaudible.

“Sure thing, honey.” Her name-badge reads ‘Smith’. He wonders if there are children at home.

The clock on the wall ticks on. Four minutes.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

They did not know the blacksmith was a woman, tall, muscled, forge-kissed. Perhaps she’d been an adventurer, and it was a dragon’s flame which scarred her. The boy said nothing, sure his voice would betray him.

Coin exchanged hands, which would save the farm, feed his brothers, buy a new cow, and Father began the weeks’ walk home.

The blacksmith and the apprentice, now apparently alone, looked at one another. The air stank of coals and hot metal, and she smiled. “Not everybody stays.”

He said nothing, heart burning in his chest. Her eyes twinkled, or smoldered.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

Standing next to his Porsche, tank empty, Aerosmith blaring, he frantically waved his dying Smartphone at the approaching pickup truck.

"Can you call a mechanic?"

"Nope."

He felt betrayed. "Don't you know who I am?"

"Sure."

"Then how about a selfie if you help me?"

She sighed. Koch Brothers ranch better sell soon; these Politicians are a pain in the ass. "No cell service. Would you feel better if you gave me your autograph?"

Smiling, he puffed out his chest, reaching for his pen.

Rolling her eyes, she reached for her gas can. Dream on, buddy, dream on.

S.D.King said...

It was a cheerful dinner. A mix of rich, clueless, smart, and cunning- together at the table. The banter remained light. After all, who could keep up with Antonin when he got going, the self-assured wordsmith?

“Would you look at that West Texas sunset?” The voice held no hint of betrayal. As they turned, a hand reached across Antonin’s tankard.

“I think I will turn in early. It’s been a long day.”

“Goodnight, Judge.”

He was found the next morning. Natural causes, orchestrated just in time.
Ruthless? No. This appointment mattered, as they could soon be Ruthless.

Michael Rigg said...

Ruth steadied herself as she approached the catafalque and inched closer to the coffin. Placing a hand gently on her antagonist’s now silent chest, she closed her eyes and thought wistfully of their days together.

“You betrayed me, you cantankerous old bastard.”

Pretending to wipe away tears, she scanned the other mourners to make sure they weren’t somehow reading her mind.

“You weren’t supposed to die so soon. Our debates. Your arguments and the way you could wordsmith….”

Soon, the tears were real.

“Goodbye Antonin, my friend, I’ll miss you more than you know.”

Kim English said...

The wordsmith spewed jargon. Like artillery bursting from a tank, his oratory exploded midair.

“Habeas Corpus! Res Ipsa Loquitur! Mandamus! Estoppel!”

He fired alliterations, metaphors, and allegory, anecdotes and precedent. He wagged his finger at authority. “To wit, and with all due respect, Your Honor…”

His chest strained against cheap polyester but his resolve remained sure. The crowd swooned, awaiting vindication, which surely lay ahead. Led astray by his audacious rhetoric, they dared to believe that one of their own could win. But the trooper knew better.

The gavel came down. “Guilty. Pay your fine across the hall. Next case.”

LynnRodz said...

I open the chest
peek inside.
Where photographs, journals,
and trinkets hide.
A lifetime of memories
tucked away.
Unmoved, untouched,
until today.

A silver tray,
names engraved.
A dried up orchid
preciously saved.
A wedding dress,
a boutionnère.
I touch each one
with awe, with care.

Ticket stubs: Smithsonian, the Beatles
and the Stones.
A picture with him
then one alone.
A tank top
worn at Woodstock,
I close the lid,
replace the lock.


A treasure, a witness,
them so young.
A life of dreams,
some yet unsung.
I ponder existence,
and what it means.
Fragile, impalpable,
so it seems.

Margaret Turkevich said...

The pewter tankard gleamed in the weak afternoon light.
Paul Revere, renowned silversmith.
The handle and hinged lid look right; the tray underneath a modern knock-off.
But the chest of drawers underneath was the real prize.
I inched across the floor in my socks.
The drawers yielded to a gentle tug, each empty.
I shined my phone flashlight inside the chest.
I pulled the emerald necklace out of a fabric bag attached to the underside.
Had I found it? Could I be sure?
"I'll take that now." My brain exploded into spatter.

Lennon Faris said...

My friend’s anvil swings up, powers down. Muscles ripple under the thin cotton T. I watch. Joe has a real tank of a chest, a smith sure of his trade already.
“Gimme a light?” he says, like always. I tap the tray, eyes sliding to his chest again.
“You shouldn’t smoke.”
He reaches for the cigarette. I jerk back, suddenly uncertain, knocking the ashtray into a barrel of water.
“Butterfingers,” he laughs; I hand him the cigarette.
He swings the anvil again, adrenaline blazing through my blood.
Those barrel chests have heart attacks, young.
I’m no klutz. Just wiping evidence.

Simon Dowling said...

“Ah, Mr. Smith, do come in.”

Hair parted, shoes polished and a briefcase held to his chest, the man stood in the centre of the room.

The voice boomed again.

“Another case completely obliterated by your absolute lack of professionalism. Did you not say it was a sure thing, Mr. Smith?”

“I-I-I did, but the guy was built like a tank, he nearly t-t-took my head off with a tray for God-sake. Plea….”

A large buzzer sounded, followed by a flash. The man was reduced to a saggy lump of clothes.

“Send in Mr. Jones.”

Claire Bobrow said...

The Great Alfredo balanced a tankard of ale on his assistant’s chest. He felt confident that a flock of white doves would soon burst forth from the battered receptacle in a spray of malty foam, but he couldn’t be absolutely sure. The second tankard on the tray contained a vulture with a rather checkered history. It was a dizzying thought. The exceedingly curvaceous front carriage of Miss Smith would either be drenched in his favorite beverage or pecked to pieces before his very eyes. Was it wrong to hope for the latter? Ticket sales had been slow of late.

JSF said...

After Capt. Booty tanked at the gold smithy’s inspection, his wares clattering into the street, he ached for some hard won pleasure for that treasure chest heart he kept hidden. So kicking the useless dust he betrayed all distrust and unfurled from a bluff to set sail to that heart at sea. He bucked left and kicked right, tumbled up and wrapped inside, and then trimming to a glide he slid out till the heart of the captain was all that be. Singing sailing aloft he spied a new love: to spring to his feet and flee from those swarming bees!

Donnaeve said...

Papa says, “Marry Roy.”

“Papa, he’s meaner’n a snakebite.”

Mama says, “Can’t feed all you young’uns.”

I marry Roy, and go live on Smith Mountain.

Roy liked things just so. Supper on a TV tray, six sharp.
Beer out a the ice chest, make it quick.

Once I says, “Them tank shirts you wear? They’s called wife-beaters.”

Truth sure can hurt.

“Go on, scream,” he says. “No one can hear.

One day he goes out trapping, drunk.

I find him, foot crushed, bleeding out.

“Help!” he yells, when he sees me.

“No one can hear,” I remind him, and leave.

Mark Thurber said...

Seven of us came. Mary is our big success, but we all write for a living.

The casket-lowering device is stuck, seems beyond repair.

She was certainly cantankerous. Sixth grade was erasures, wordsmithing, deleting stray punctuation, and her checking over shoulders that the verb matches the subject.

“Uh, guys?” I point to the headstone.

Here lies Regina. Born 1925. Died 2016. She loved her students, the cat and the English language.

Ten minutes with a chisel, then time for another try. Now Regina descends smoothly to her final resting place.

“She always was a stickler for the Oxford comma.”

Shaun Dovaston said...

‘Gimme all the trimmings. Nips, tucks… no bumps. Winner’s ribbon was made for my glorious chest,’ said this year’s pageant entry. ‘My strut has game.’

He bleated on and on, sun bleached ringlets ruffling to accentuate each word; assurance admirable. Anaesthetic coursed through his veins, and his dreamy, doe eyes closed.

Tinkering with his tray, the surgeon snapped on gloves. ‘Another wriggler.’

Remainders in the beautifying tank gurgled. Asleep imperfect. Awake ahead of the herd.

‘Handsome, right? High hopes for him,’ said Mrs Smith, closing the door behind her.

‘Sure. They’re all convinced they’re nurturing talent.’ The surgeon tutted. ‘Farmers.’

Tain Leonard-Peck said...

The Smith was feeling content. He was sure he'd complete the order for the Baron in time. He placed his latest finished tray into the chest with all the others. He grabbed a mug off his work bench, and poured the chilled fluid over himself. The Baron had ordered a hundred silver trays for his next banquet, and here sat the Smith, ninety made with a week to spare. He chuckled. It had taken him such little time to work these trays. The added lead was so soft, so easy. Yet, they would take so agonizingly long to kill. Masterpieces.

Brian Schwarz said...

www.Craigslist.com
Title: To The Dentist Who Stole My Son
Category: lost & found
Area: Sydney, Australia

Mr. Smith,

I’m coming for you, like that guy from the Taken movies.

Liam Neeson.

And I’m bringing friends. The dangerous kind. With sharp teeth.

I am NOT clowning around.

Sure, it’s not all your fault. I told him not to stray so far out into the open ocean.

He never saw that diver coming.

But now you have him in a tank? With a bubbly treasure chest?

No sir. I will not stand for it.

Marlin

Karen McCoy said...

Shattered it. He got a scholarship sure to transmit his skills into greatness.

We called him Tank for his enormous chest, and it made him the perfect linebacker.

I asked if the pressure would drive him astray. He wrinkled his nose at my nail earrings, and said it wouldn’t.

Sure, it was Smith’s idea to jump the bridge in the battered Celica.

Tank’s chest saved him. Smith didn’t make it.

Afterward, I watched Tank eat jello from a hospital tray. Shattered it.

Kathryn Leonard-Peck said...

“Nino, pass the tray. You’re hoarding crawfish, and the canapĂ©s not delegated to the United States by the Constitution...”
Antonin roared with laughter, broad chest heaving. “But they have so much textualism, I mean texture. I must read the original recipe.”
His host smirked, refilled the tankards.
Nino protested. “You’ll have me on my Tenth round.”
“Surely everyone knows you stop counting after the Fourth.”
“Ruth says that every New Year’s. I don’t care.”
His friend made a rude gesture. “Interpret this. Oh wait, you can’t...”
Benched around a rough-hewn table, the wordsmith of D.C. fenced one last match.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

They didn’t name her because she wasn’t expected to live.
She did.
They didn’t take her home because they said she was ugly.
She was not.
I took her.
I named her.
I loved her.
She loved me but she loved them more.
She ran back to them.
They thought she was a stray.
She was not.
Lost to loyalty and unmeasured cruelty, she died giving birth.
So I, the cantankerous one, orchestrated their demise.
Blew their house to smithereens.
They were not expected to live.
They did.
So did her puppy.
I love her.
She loves me more.

Mallory Love said...

At night, she used to measure time by the rise and fall of his chest. Until the day her clock stopped and grew pale. The paramedics were quick, but not fast enough.

After his death, time betrayed her, mocking her with memories, taunting her with missing moments they would never share. Her hopes tanked at the sight of families. Heartache made her ill. A glance at the calendar gave her pause. Counting to the days before her grief, she took a test. Results: positive.

Months later, she watches him sleep. “Baby Smith” his bracelet reads. His gentle breaths keep time.

Marie McKay said...

The chest's surface was beyond shine. She thought how the DNA of her husband's noble ancestry must be harboured in its notches. She placed her cheek on the grain imagining the tiny atoms mingling with her own.
It stank, but she couldn't part with her treasure.
She took a can of air freshner from the cupboard and veiled the room with a mist of fragrance. Placing the can down on top of the chest, she admired again the locksmith's handiwork, and smiled at the irony of such a confined space containing the corpse of a husband who had often strayed.

Brigid said...

My first was a rose on my left ankle, for the florist who betrayed me. My second was an anvil on my chest, for that cocksure blacksmith. My third was a pawprint, for the veterinarian I still can’t forget. I don’t know what my fourth will be. I’ve been sketching, but I can’t figure out a fitting memorial for the detective. I might have to visit the grave again, to let inspiration strike.

nightsmusic said...

Damn! The shark’s flash fiction contests can be tough. I got nothing this time, my brain just tanked. Empty. A complete blank. I stared at these five words for hours. Nothing. I take a deep breath. Concentrate. Nada. Makes my chest hurt when I can’t come up with anything and me, a wordsmith. Sure, it’s easy they say, like serving burgers on a tray. You lay them all out pretty and hot and they’re delicious. String the right words, beautiful. Yeah? Making burgers is easier. Sigh…words? Not this time.

Lydia D. said...

It was a night to remember. We coined new constellations, patterns among the little, bright rays in our cliche starry sky. A midnight picnic, wine, a ring.

The big day came. The photographer was late. My right ankle blistered in my fancy shoe.

It was a holy union. Then it went on strike.

Sure, remarrying would be easier, but another wedding won’t erase the offense.

Hitmen don’t come cheap, but my heartbreak’s mithridate has to be something drastic.

“Honey, did you hear?” my husband asks. “Our old wedding photographer died. They think he was murdered.”

“Is that so?”

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

When my life tanked--love, social and work--the only way to deal with it was to succeed at something, no matter how small. (Pills are small.)
I'm not a big drinker. Never been in a bar. (Did you know waitresses bring the drinks on a tray? I sure didn't.)
But I knew alcohol was an excellent solvent, though by ten pills, the precipitate started settling in the bottom of the glass.
So what happens? Some asshole with a chest big as a blacksmith's comes along and drinks my drink.
The whole thing.
Honestly. Can't I get anything right?

Rachel McCauley said...

“In the chest behind the frog-jumping blacksmith holds the key to our escape.”

“Sergeant, are you sure about the intel?”

“Private, are you taking those mind-altering pills from the enemy?”

“No, sir.”

Sergeant Hanson walked towards the chest and picked its lock.

Once opened, Sergeant Hanson pulled out a floral-pattern tankini and shoved it into my face. “Put this on, Private.”

Once in disguise, we ran down the hallway about to enter freedom when Nurse Ratchet wacked me with a tray.

“Marcy, Dr. Johnson found your bathing suit. He’s not wearing underwear, so I would burn it.”

Just Jan said...

Back to work after restless weekend at cabin.
New case with indeterminate cause of death--
Body reduced to smithereens by roaming pack of strays.

Third quarter—
No DNA, no suspect, no leads.
Victim’s parents petition for closure.

Waning crescent--
Public outcry at full boil; Chief demands results.
Case ice-cold.

New moon--
Tanker driver found with history of mental illness and public inebriation.
DA coaches ambiguous witness, presses for indictment.

First quarter--
Scapegoat pleads guilty; sentencing ensues.
Accept commendation.

Gibbous moon, fat and waxy--
Mind and body tense, chest tight.
Return to cabin to pray...
And prey again.

Brian M. Biggs said...

Night before Mount Saint Helens blew my brother Chester and I drove up to visit Harry Truman. May 17th, 1980. We never came back. Truman owned the lodge at Spirit Lake. Had the skills: caretaker, blacksmith, carpenter. Lived alone up here but he can sure spin a good yarn. He set out a tray of cookies and brewed some coffee on his woodstove. The truck that filled his propane tank quit coming months before. Didn’t pay him no mind. Said, "If the mountain goes, I'm going with it.” We laughed. Laughin’ to this day. Up here at Spirit Lake.

Peggy Rothschild said...

The room sTANK of cigar. The boneSMITH squinted through the haze. “Had to bring me another sTRAY, didn’t you?

The broken boy remained unconscious, CHEST barely rising.

“What was I s’posed to do?” Leave him for the soup-makers?”

“What was he doing, anyway?”

“Tried to jump from the water tower onto the roof of the granary. Didn’t make it.”

“No shit.” The bonesmith shook his head. “You SURE got a way of stating the obvious.”

“Can you fix him?”

“Nope. But I got orders for a couple walking sticks and a chess set. He won’t go to waste.”

Steve Wilkins said...

The old wizard had an idea, and he required a blacksmith to accomplish it, a particular blacksmith to perfect it.

After walking days through the vagrant crowds, he found the one. A tattoo of Avalon on his chest, and the fires of a dragon burnt on his right ankle, and not easily swayed by the pursuit of easy money.

The wizard watched him, effortlessly pull hot metal from the kiln, cool it in the water, and then forge it on his tray.

"Can you make me a magical sword that only the worthy can yield?"

A quizzical look. "Sure I can do that."

Claudette Hoffmann said...

“Hurry, hide!” Mama pointed to the pickup.

Pa’s meth-whiskey jags killed her last month. She left behind a porcelain box, small treasures.

His lull exploded into a monster jag, the porcelain smashed to smithereens. Down. Up. Asleep.

Leap into pickup’s cab. Tank’s full, treasures hidden in the bed.

SLAM! He’s at the backdoor. “Where you goin?”

Distract. “Lurleen called. New batch’s ready.”

He’s off, jingling donor-cycle keys.

I gun the engine, heart pounding in my chest.

Last rays of sun retreat as three small towheads yell through the cab’s rear window, “Sissy, we safe?”

“Almost, mama’s treasures, almost.”

Dee Gee said...

The smithy, hammer rising, falling,
refused to hear his sweetheart calling,
“Time for bed, time for rest.”
He pulled air deep into his chest,
and vowed to not betray his king.
He honed the blade to make it sing.

At dawn, he paused to slake his thirst.
One thing more—but a tankard first.

She smiled when he displayed his prize,
sweet admiration in her eyes.
He kissed her cheek and cursed his vow,
then steeled his heart—the time was now.

His thrust was swift, his aim was sure—
her blood baptized Excalibur.

Cipher said...

If you thought getting a locksmith in Queen’s was hard, try getting one on Saturn. After-hours.
That’ll teach you a few choice swear words. Promise.
I tapped the glass of oxygen tank strapped to my chest. Thirty-minutes. Shit.
Grotty legless chav was three hours late.
Ash was going to bury me. ‘It’s a sure deal Ray. Can’t miss.’
I could still smell the stinking optimism on his stupid lips.
Sod it, I’ll just—just see my keys. On. The. Roof.
I pulled the aviators over my eyes. Time to shake it Ray.
After all, bank wasn’t about to rob itself.

Freda Cameron said...

Rainwater gushed from the gutters. As Michelle grabbed for the frantic stray cat, she slipped into the catchment tank. The struggling animal scratched her chest. “Ouch!”

She held the soggy cat above her head, out of the water. “Unless this storm eases, we’re sure to drown.”

Living off-grid, no one was coming to her rescue. Each day was a learning experience and she regretted not paying the metalsmith to weld a ladder inside the tank.

Then, the deluge eased.

“Oh, no! We’ll starve to death if the rain stops. We need to float to the top.”

Alexander Sudarshan said...

"Gun oil"

The man was hiding behind a large wooden chest, sure that none could see him.My partner slunk smoothly along the floor to flank him.
Before I could get in position, our quarry flung a metal tray and shots rang out.
He never saw me aim.
The place stank of cordite.
His last words were " But I got him, I killed Smith!".
Too bad he missed me, Wesson.

kdjames.com said...

I watch him underestimate me across the bar, tight tank top stretched across my chest, short skirt exposing long tanned legs.

I suck hard on the straw in my drink. He smiles, approaches.

So suave, assured of his power and invincibility.

He sits close.

I lick the straw clean, running my lips all the way to the end, fitting the dart just so. Blow.

Fitting, as his orders blew the hotel, my reputation, my sister's life, to smithereens.

His fall knocks a tray off the bar. I scream, just another ditzy blonde.

And an assassin. Who never, ever misses twice.

SiSi said...


You left the bracelet lying on your bedside table. The tiny tankard with its delicate design showcasing the silversmith’s craft. The miniature treasure chest dangling next to the matching hearts. Mementos of you and your new love. Of your betrayal.

I wanted to slash a scarlet A across your chest and drop you in a glass tank to display your shame. Hire a locksmith to seal your fate. Measure your sin by the number of people who came to stare. Punish you for going astray.

She came for her bracelet after the funeral. She’d seen your notice: silver bracelet found.

sdbullard said...

They sat together in the restaurant.

“What happened?”

“I tanked, couldn’t go through with it. How do you do it? You sit there, portraying a regular guy...”

“That’s the job.”

“How many have you done?”

“There’s always one more.”

“I just can’t. I’ll be right back.”

The second man called for the check, then followed his companion to the restroom. The silenced pistol barely made a sound. Two taps to the chest.

“One more down,” he said without pleasure.

He returned to the table, signed the receipt.

“Have a good day, Mr. Smith,” the waiter called.

He was already gone.

Robert Ceres said...

I’d tried to bond, but lovesmith I am not.

But to betray her? Kill my hope for love? At fifteen?

Life tanked, on an impulse. Acting first, going berserk at the slightest hint of passion; of emotion; of whatever. Couldn’t I have controlled myself just this once? What a mistake.

She lay silent, still, eyes closed, face frozen in surprise. That beautiful face.

Lock me up. Toss the key. Regret I will surely never forget.

It didn’t matter, my heart was already dead.

A tear dropped. I touched her chest beneath her breast.

“That,” she whispered, “was some first kiss.”

Steve Cassidy said...


“Amazing.”

“I was sure you’d like it.”

“How’s he do that? The orchestra plays one way, then suddenly another.”

“Imagine a stray bumblebee in a field of flowers. Every movement is a separate tanka, an ancient Japanese interpretation of love and desire, sensuality and passion, the individual serenity and beauty of a lotus. There's no music in front of them, they read whatever tanka he lays out and play with interpreted emotion. He calls it Smithereens.”

“Smithereens?”

“He’s taken everything we know about philharmonic orchestration and conformity and blown it to Smithereens. They never play the same music twice.”

“Amazing”

Ben Farrell said...

Dazed, he sat up desperately fighting to focus. Had that last shell taken out Smith’s tank? Panic swelled, threatening to claw its way in.

Surely, not Smith?

After the Others had broken through last night, Smith kept them together, leading the defense of the artifact. The artifact! Despite the pounding in his head, his eyes flew open.

Where was it?

Searching for a moment, his eyes rested on a simple brown cafeteria tray in the rubble, a memento from a different time. Suddenly Crossman was there, screaming, “Fall back! The artifact, it’s in the chest! Get to the chest!”

Sara Halle said...

We bonded over a love of cubism.

I treasured his enlightened activism.

Then he accused me of sarcasm

Said I betrayed him with my narcissism.

I developed unrelenting bruxism

As he tanked my days with his criticism.

Soon he shared his love of pugilism.

Pain filled my chest like an embolism.

Authorities only voiced their skepticism

And I could no longer embody stoicism.

My meal appealed to his gourmandism.

I threw mine away, blamed my metabolism.

The end came in a cataclysm.

The doctors reported an aneurysm.

My actions might deserve criticism

But I think they were pragmatism.

Lochlan Sudarshan said...

Most exclusive proposal restaurant. Stank of roses.

Sure this’ll work?” Paco cradled the Maltese.

“Yeah.” Brody fastened a barrel around its collar, a St. Bernard’s brandy in miniature. Just over its chest.

Special order. Ring on a tray.

“Showtime.” Brody kissed Paco and went to bus.

Applause for the latest proposal finished. Brody shooed an errant dove.

Maltese trotted up. Fiancee reached for the barrel.

“How adorable!” Brody exclaimed.

The dog shot out the door on cue.

“I’ll go after it!”

He met it at the silversmith’s. Bought bubbly with the proceeds.

“Good dog.”

Ben N. said...

I blame my solitude on many people. On my wife, who strayed often during my travels. On my children, who I assured I would call, though they never promised to answer. On my colleagues that condemned my expeditions as “unscrupulous pillaging”.

But my reclusiveness never bred loneliness. A hinoki chest accompanied me, with inlaid smithsonite crystals, engraved warriors, and a lid inscribed with a tanka. Translated: “We sail the ocean unaware of the temperature of the water or our destination, because we could not travel knowing.”

I unearthed the case thirteen years ago. My last breath leaves; it lies unopened.

John Frain said...


My show ended at midnight when the stray biker chick strutted in. Bought her a drink. Slipped roofies into her glass. Half-hour later, the pleasure was mine.

Helped myself to her purse, her chest and her room key. We boarded the elevator. Some cantankerous bitch jabbed her arms between the doors, springing them open.

“Your video,” she said. “It's going viral already.”

I smiled. “Tonight’s concert?”

“No,” she said. Showed her phone. “Your performance after. Got it all.”

Shattered my future into smithereens. “But what happens in Vegas –”

“That’s a slogan. Not a defense.” Her handcuffs cut into my wrists.


french sojourn said...


War’s a horrid affair. The walls have ears and orchards have tanks.

We had twelve small resistance cells. Unfortunately, some women did the most horrific jobs. Getting information in any way, saved lives. Their poor hearts atrophied in their chests.

After the occupation ended, the real betrayal started. Because so many of our fighters died, no one knew who had been resistance. Women were dragged out of their houses, heads were shaved, and some were unjustly stoned to death. People did it for closure, but it was cowardice.

We hadn’t only used blacksmiths to break steel, we’d also used butterflies.

debradorris said...

Tears streamed, mingled gently with the waves. Hands ached with each claw at the sand in her desperation to fight the pull of the currents.

Zola should have listened to her mother. “Wear the Tankini, protect your chesty treasures, It’s only water games,” she’d said.

The bikini top she chose betrayed her in the worst way: wardrobe malfunction. The thing up and disappeared. Poof – gone.

She ducked behind huge boulders until the beach crowd left. Her sore fingers grasped the medallion the coven’s goldsmith presented to her earlier and hung her head.

A hard lesson learned: Mothers know best.

Kae Ridwyn said...

It was just signatures; surely not too hard?

Maggie tucked a stray hair behind her ear. He’d hate this haircut. What had she been thinking? Car tyres screeched outside. Dread descended.

“Hi.” Forcing a smile. “Come in.”
He strode forward, grinning dangerously. “You look like a skank.” His swift backhand hurled her against the doorjamb.

“No divorce. Ever,” he snarled. He pinned her against his chest, propelling her back inside the rented villa. He stank; stale deodorant. Her thoughts whirled. Her plan – he’d sign, then leave – lay in smithereens, but maybe she could escape again?

Unfortunately, her plans rarely worked.

Laura Mary said...

The locksmith had arrived sooner than expected. One quick job and Fay's life was hers again. Out with the Ex and in with the new. Sure, she'd betrayed Tom, but she deserved to feel safe in her own home.
Sipping from a novelty tankard, a souvenir from less sinful times, she relaxed on the couch, finally noticing the blinking light on the answering machine.
'Sorry...double booked...be round to change the lock first thing tomorrow...sorry again.'

A key scraped in the lock and Fay's heart stammered in her chest.

It was the last thing her treacherous heart did.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

“Her name is Mithrani, Fahmida Mithrani.”

I shut my eyes against her violet rayon blazer and turn to Miss Stars-In-Her-Eyes scraggy teen. A treasure. Why the hell did these religious assholes keep bringing them in?

“Where’r you from?”

She speaks godawful slow, “I am from Pakistan, k? My family—”

“JUST answer the question.”

“Hey. Show a little respect. She’s a survivor of the Indus delta. Remember? Former rich estuary. Now land of salt. She needs your compassion. Not your attitude.”

Guilt? Really? I look at them. Then the long line behind them.

“We’re done. Next.”

luciakaku said...

When I was five, my parents called me “princess,” and I thought I could be anything.

When I was ten, I stole my mother’s makeup because I wanted to be pretty, too.

When I was fifteen, I wore tank tops to school and got detention because my chest was “distracting.”

When I was twenty, I was pressured out of shop class because I wasn’t strong enough to be a smith.

Now I’m twenty-five, my boss hands me a tray--“Get to work, princess.”--and I know I’m nothing.

Nate Wilson said...

The chasm, it haunts me still.

It's twenty years on, yet each night the fissure beckons, entreating me to hurl myself headlong into the abyss. Oh, that I could.

Carrie had orchestrated the whole thing. I'd merely given her the strength to act.

She couldn't bring herself to shove him, though. Dad's Benelli was easier. And it got the same result.

Her exhilaration, sadly, was short-lived. Regret loomed. Left alone with her thoughts, she'd betray us both. And I hadn't the strength.

Her tan knit sweater, with the chasm at its center? I gave her that.

I gave her that.

Timothy Lowe said...

One more minute to be sure. Just one. Chest strapped with oblivion, he waits to decide.

Drift by the soldiers. Slip past Smiths Detection. A hundred degrees in the explosive suit. Don’t sweat. Don’t think.

Ahead, the tank. He eyes the right tread. There are no stray chances. Its armor - impenetrable.

Head humming. Low wails from the hills. A mourning village. Their sons, captive to the incendiary plot.

Breathe. Ahead, the metal beast. In its belly, someone else’s sons.

Two dogs bark. A commotion breaks out.

No more minutes, to be certain. He plunges forward.

Time waits to decide.

ace said...

Brett puts his face towel down on the toilet tank. "I'm sorry."

"'Sorry,'" mimics the other man in the bathroom with a sneer. "You're not sorry."

A stray glance catches the other man's eyes in the mirror as Brett shaves in silence, done smithing useless apologies. "Maybe I'm not. Maybe," he says, as he buttons his oxford shirt and the other man does the same, "I'm leaving you."

The other man leans in close, so close their chests would be touching if not for the flat surface of the mirror separating them. "Oh, I'd sure like to see you try."

Lance said...

Lugging the treasure ashore, our boots sank in the roiling sand and surf. We raced into the dunes.

Unslinging our weapons and shovels, we dug with fury in the gathering gloom.

Waste deep in the sand, “Why are you digging at right angles to me?”

“It makes an 'L',” she said. The sand flew.

“Your name doesn't start with an 'L'.”

“Laura sure does.”

Tankards of ale. Betrayed by Sister Laura!

I settled the chest in the short trench and looked up – into the barrel of her Smith & Wesson.

“Dead men chase no nuns.”

Michael Seese said...

Nobody wants to die in a tank.

Freedom is an ocean of opportunity you take for granted. Until you've been snatched from it, and your entire existence becomes subject to the will of another.

Feast / famine.
Day / night.
Life / death.

I smithed my own demise, using the blunt instrument known as my ego. Betrayed by my own cocksure spirit, I flirted with the uncrossable boundary. And I lost.

They found me chest-up on the floor. I didn't expect much. A short elegy, perhaps. Instead, my captors scooped me up in the green net, and unceremoniously flushed me down the toilet.

Luke Timmins said...

Drunk tank full, one minute to midnight. Threatened only once today. Probably the heat, too syrupy to cause trouble. Perp looked Smith straight in the whites, “you’ll sure squeal for your maker.”

Clubbed the animal plum on the nose, blood speckled his shirt, gone now, sweat done drained the deep red right out of it. Belly button too, wet patch, shaped like a Texas full moon.

Midnight. Plucked keys from the tray, bolted.


Wife asleep. Stripped, chest hair glistened. Sandals lost, saw her slippers, frowned, hated her feet were the same size as his, slipped them on. Looked down. Diamonds.

Kitty said...

Old Mrs. Mandelbaum was sitting at the register in her Manhattan kosher deli chain-smoking Chesterfields, ashtray poised for the fallout, while training a new busboy.
“Mayor’s coming,” the busboy said.
“Nanny Bloomers? That pinstripe schmuck doesn’t bother me.”

“Sylvia.”
“Michael.”
“You know smoking will kill you.”
“I’m blowing that theory to smithereens.” {laugh, cough, hack}
“It’s against the law to smoke in here.”
“So you keep telling me.”
“Is my order ready?”
“Pastrami on rye, two dills.”
“Just put it on my tab.” He smiled. “See you tomorrow, Sylvia.”
“Always a pleasure, Michael.”

“Where’s the mayor’s tab?”
“I’m smoking it.”