Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Cuddles the Cactus Flash Fiction contest results

Sorry about the delay in posting these results. I got waylaid on Sunday by manuscripts, and Monday by connection issues. I finally got to the entries yesterday, and of course, there was no way I could read through them quickly enough to post by 7am, so here we are on Wednesday.

Too close to home for anything other than tears
Michael Seese 9:44am
Mallory Love 10:48am
Richelle Elberg 12:27pm
Kathy Joyce 1:11pm
Craig F 5:33pm

Not quite a story, but an attention grabber none-the-less
Sian Brighal
It’s the worst kind of theft...the kind where you fill the fat thief’s deep pockets because you’ve not been taught better. The old in the shadows of looming senility can see it from their side of schooling. They know what’s gone down, how dependence has replaced them apron-strings that kids now call ethernet cables have shortened minds on long loose leashes. They gather and mutter while kids scatter from lessons, laughing at the obsolescence of outdated connections as they rush to their standalone lives.

It takes a lot to get me these days, what with your amazing entries and clever writing, and Steve Forti is in an especially difficult class cause we've come to expect him to be flat out brilliant, but honestly, this one STILL made me laugh out loud. (and the prompt word Thief….well, that was five stars out of four!)

“Eww, that tux is hideous. Tell me it's rented.”
“Owned. Bought it last night. Only twenty bucks!”
“You don't say.”
“Hey, check her out. Pretty cute, right?”
“Stunning. What's your plan?”
“Alcohol. Definitely need a shot of courage first.”
“Obviously. And then?”
“What's the best pickup line you got?”
“Effective. I'll consider it. But what follows that opening?”
“That's on you. Go get her, you mensch.”

“Oo. Lookie what the cat dragged in.”
“Hi honey. You look great in white. Think we're ready?”
“I do.”

Cuddles the Cactus has a favorite. It is of course this entry from Amy Schaefer

Everybody wants to touch me. It's the downside of being gorgeous.
He approaches cautiously, lips wetted, eyes gleaming. Glancing around to make sure no one else is looking, because he's only barely bold enough to try this. He reaches out, body blocking the movement.
Just waiting to be schooled.
"Ouch!" He pulls back, abandoning stealth. I effing love it.
Mortified, he retreats. His spouse is rolling her eyes, lips pursed in a sour-lemon expression.
He's going to get an earful as they try to remove that spine together. My little gift.
You come at the cactus, you best not miss.

On the other hand Cuddles was not all that pleased to be told that her hairdo was an alien!

Caru Cadoc 10:31pm
Dear Ms. Reid,

I’m writing to submit a “novel” idea: lift my leathery green ass out of this cup and put me down inside the sink to water me. This b-team teacup lacks proper drainage. Any schmo can see that from the dirt on the porcelain. I’m an old-school cactus. I need drainage. Don’t be the thief of my brief existence.


p.s. There’s two of us. Swirly-brains is a separate cactus, grafted onto my head. Please refer to us by our proper names, as we find your single name for two individuals offensive and belittling.
And for those of you who know about succulents you'll be glad to know I inherited Cuddles in that tea cup and her new home AND potting soil are on order.

And sometimes when you play with form it's just absolutely fun and gorgeous, like this from Dena Pawling 11:46am

Snowy days
School is closed
Susie's home

All windows
And all doors
Are locked tight

Nog is egged
Nodding off
Nitey night

Trouble comes
Tumbles down
Thief inside

As he lands
At the hearth
Arms are full

Cat peeks out
Creeps across
Claws unfold

Leaves his loot
Loves the milk
Late to go

Attack cat
Aims for face
And draws blood

Under siege
Up he goes

Soon she purrs
Susie's safe

Sometimes the first line of an entry just grabs me and won't let go.
JustJan, 8:21pm
There are down sides to keeping an alligator. Thermoregulation is a big deal. Like Goldilocks, these creatures want the temperature just right.

Schooling is also important. Not for the animal, but for the general public. An alligator’s personal space, for instance, is something you don’t want to encroach upon. My wife, Debbie, failed that topic.

Her brother, Victor, plots revenge.

“It’s a dumb animal,” I tell him in disbelief.

“It’s a thief,” he insists. And one night, just like Debbie, he makes a mistake.

Which is the up side of keeping an alligator.

Another great opening line, and a job I really want to apply for
StackAttack 8:57pm
The Headmistress of Downlow School of Mischief and Debauchery perused the application with all the enthusiasm of a lethargic cat. Until she reached the last page.


“Yes, ma’am.”

“High seas or space?”

“Little bit of this. Little bit of that,” he said, flashing an elusive smile. Nobody liked a braggart.

She set aside her rimless spectacles to consider the thief with renewed vigor. “Very well. We’ll be in touch.”

When they parted, the thief carried an old pair of rimless spectacles; the Headmistress a thief’s wallet. Neither said a word, not even after school commenced.

Nobody liked a braggart.

While this one isn't quite a story, it's the start of something I'd want to read!

Amy Johnson 8:13am
The super unlocked Mrs. Chen’s door for me. I’d miss her grandmotherly “hello, dear” whenever we saw each other in the hallway. And I would need to find someone else to feed Mittens when I traveled overseas for work.

I had never been inside. Seventies kitsch. Oolong tea, five varieties. I felt a bit like a thief, going through her things. But I couldn’t bear to think of anything precious ending up down in the dumpster. Old books. Sun Tzu—who’d have thought? A metal box. Her passport. But a different name. More passports, more names.

It was only on the second pass that I realized what this story was about. Do you get it?

Miriam 3:18pm

This was no ordinary robbery. It was a merciless plan to break a teacher down.

The iPads? Untouched on the bookshelf, like they were obsolete as the old dictionaries beside them. My laptop? Closed on my desk, the chalk dust on the lid undisturbed.

The thief took the best listener in class, who sat with perfect posture every day. Who never interrupted a lesson with a fidget spinner or a fart joke. Who never wasted time, pretending to need another drink of water. The sharpest one in school. My favorite.

All that remained was a speck of sandy soil.

I love the play with old school thief in these two entries

Marsha Adams 4:03pm

There's no downside to being an old school thief.
Okay, you need the right tools and if you can't find a fence you're stuck with an old school: so you need a way in and out. That's planning, not a downside.
There's a small risk of jail time, sure. Free bed and board; a holiday from the world. There's no actual downside.
But the rewards! Diamond Jack sold Harrow for... well, he's never said, but a waitress gave him that nickname when she saw her tip.
So... field generator, miniaturiser, containment unit: £19,000 all in.
Do we have a deal?
Nate Wilson 12:10am
"I'm just an old school thief. Small scale only. There's no down side."

Roger deflated. "My source said you'd branched out."

Jenkins shook his head. "I ain't altered my business model in 50 years. And I never been caught. This is all I got."

"Nothing else? I need the stuff tomorrow."

"Nope. I only hit hatcheries, poach swarms of tiny fish. The skins make gorgeous jewelry. Huge profit margins."

"No feathers to fill my knock-off jackets? He swore you did those on the side."

"Like I said. I'm just an old school thief. Small scale only. There's no down side."

This isn't a story but it's hilarious and charming
Sherin Nicole11:31pm
She lived a colloquial life. Sold her soul, lied down with dogs, and played both sides against the middle. On occasion she denied death and swam with the fishes—schools of them. Her aphorisms were orgasmic; she’d stolen hearts and left them cold. Lovers could be such idioms, and she such a petty thief. There’d be no rest for a woman this wicked, so she skipped the afterlife and proclaimed herself, “goddess” (figuratively).

This time the winner was clear at once. That doesn't happen often, but this entry was both on topic, funny, and subtle. That's a neat hat trick in 100 words.

Congratulations Miriam 3:18pm

I've got a copy of Mike Cooper's The Downside (UK edition) for you and an audio copy too!  If you've already read it let me know and we'll figure out another prize.  Email me your mailing address.

And many thanks to all of you who took the time to write stories and enter the contest. As always the breadth of talent here is inspiring and daunting.  I love reading your work!


Amy Schaefer said...

Congratulations, Miriam! That entry was my favourite.

Linda Strader said...

Congrats Miriam!Good job.

Kathy Joyce said...

So many good reads. Sad to say, I'm still not getting Miriam's. Enlighten me? And congrats Miriam!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

So many funny entries and gorgeously written entries.

I noticed Dena's beginning word for each sentence spelled out a triple Santa Claus.

But I'm with Kathy Joyce. I'm clueless about Miriam's.

Colin Smith said...

Congrats, Miriam! For those who don't get it, read it carefully in light of Janet's comment that it's on topic (not news topic... think about the inspiration for the contest).

I'll update the spreadsheet add soon as I can.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I also do not get Miriam’s but I am pre-coffee.

Congratulations to all shark bitten entries. And good job, Miriam.

Kathy Joyce said...

Oooooh, now I get it. Very clever Miriam. Nice catch Lisa, on Dena's Santa Claus. I didn't see that either. Perhaps more coffee.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Oh, thanks, Colin - now I see. Brilliant Miriam. Well done.

Donnaeve said...

Color me obtuse, but I STILL don't get Miriam's yet the funny thing is, out of all the choices, it's my favorite. Ain't that strange?

Congrats Miriam!

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Miriam, Congratulations! But I still don't get it.

I loved the entries from StackAttack, JustJan, CaruCadoc. Good stuff. "There are down sides to keeping an alligator." HA!

Barbara said...

Congrats, Miriam. Nicely done!

Kathy Joyce said...

Miriam's thief took the "sharpest" one in the class, and left only "a speck of sandy soil." Janet said the story was "on topic," and the topic was her cactus.

Dena Pawling said...

Thanks for the mention!

Congrats Miriam! I'm sorry the prize isn't Cuddles, but that book looks a bit safer to hold =)

Richelle Elberg said...

Nice work all and congrats Miriam! I liked Amy Johnson's--I got a whole story out of it. Our hero is a spook, she gave her neighbor full reign of her apartment when working. China wins......

Lots and lots of good ones this time, for sure. I got Miriam's today but didn't over the weekend.

Amy Johnson said...

Congratulations, Miriam! I needed a few reads to get it, and it was fun trying to figure it out. "Who never wasted time, pretending to need another drink of water." Love it!

Thanks for the mention, Janet, and for another fun contest.

Richelle: Thank you. I'm so glad you got it! Your story made me teary with the memories. I remember those eyes, and trying to get him into the car. And being almost unable to see through the tears on the way home. "There's only one way to reward him now." Wow. Your story is beautiful. Beautiful.

Jeannette Leopold said...

Congratulations Miriam!

I loved StarAttack. Would love to read a book that takes places at that school.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Congrats Miriam! These are all fantastic. Ya'll are really incredible!

Lennon Faris said...

Ooh. I thought Miriam's was poignant and heartbreaking, a teacher's take on the Florida shooting (the shooter 'stole' the teacher's favorite student).

I also couldn't get the shooting out of my head this weekend, which is what so many of us seemed to write about... So maybe I am way off.

Either way, a very well written piece. I loved all of these!

Steve Forti said...

Congrats Miriam! I had Lennon's interpretation, too. But now I see the real one and it's great.
Also, blushing at the commentary on mine. Made my morning.

Beth Carpenter said...

These are wonderful! I hate that I haven't had time to enter or even read the last two contests, but love seeing the finalists. JustJan's is my favorite, but loved them all. Thanks for the hints, Kathy, my thoughts were running like Lennon's.

Congratulations, Mariam, and all of you. Well done.

Donnaeve said...

Oooooh. I knew it didn't have to do with the recent shootings b/c JR said, "funny." Thank you Kathy for spelling it out for me. Even the biggest hint, "sandy soil" didn't help my poor head until you stepped in.

Karen McCoy said...

Congrats, Miriam! What a great bunch of entries. I had to sit this one out due to conference duties, but look forward to the next one!

Kate Larkindale said...

What an awesome bunch of stories (as usual). Congratulations Miriam!

Colin Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Smith said...

The Contest Spreadsheet in the Treasure Chest is up-to-date. :)

John Davis Frain said...

Miriam, you rock!

And Steve Forti rolls!

And StackAttack, I'll brag about yours cuz I know you won't.

Great tales, y'all. Loved 'em.

Richelle Elberg said...

Thank you Amy. :) I made myself cry writing it.

StackAttack said...

Way to go, Miriam! Great entries, all around. It's really something special and inspiring to see what everyone's imagination can do with a few words.

(And thanks for the mentions!)

Kathy Joyce said...

Gotta thank Colin. I was clueless without his hint. Just read through the entries again. Such great work! Now back to what I'm supposed to be doing.

The Noise In Space said...

Can I put in a request for both StackAttack's and JustJan's entries to be made into books? I want to read both of those immediately!

I confess I didn't get Miriam's either. Like Lennon et al., my best guess was an obscure reference to the shooter. :(

One Of Us Has To Go said...

Well done Miriam! Enjoy!

I admire everyone's talent. How literary you write (what I can't do - won't give it another go).

I did get that it was about the cactus and that Janet is the teacher for all the students here on this blog.

But I still seem to remain stupid on why the cactus entry is a story but then the one from Amy Johnson isn't. (Confirms: I won't give it another try, just can't do flash fiction... One competitor fewer ;) )

KariV said...

Now that it's been spelled out, I get it. Very clever. Congrats to Miriam. I also loved Steve Forti's (I read it 5 times before finding thief)and Dena Pawling's. I didn't get to enter this time because I spent the weekend creating a writer's website and a Twitter, but these entries were out of the world creative!!! Well done to all.

Richelle Elberg said...

17 mentions out of 47 entries. If only that were the "please send me your full ms" ratio!!!

Anonymous said...

Congrats, Miriam! I did get that it was the cactus, but it took me two tries. Very clever of you!

I also LOVED Nate's entry, but I'm a sucker for double meanings. The "small scale" and "no down side" at the end meaning something different from their use at the beginning, even though the sentences are worded the same way, just completely cracked me up. Such subtlety.

Someone said this a while ago, and I'm finding it true for me as well: either I read the prompt words and get an immediate idea and write a story in mere minutes, or nothing clicks at all no matter how much time I spend on it. Writing short is HARD.

Great job, everyone!

Timothy Lowe said...

Congrats Miriam and mentionables. Funny how so many had a similar use of the prompt words. I got them emblazoned in my mind in that order and there was no other way to go about it. Forti was especially impressive, and Mate and Marsha take the prize for best use of that particular phrase. I agree with kd. The short form is a special skill.

Timothy Lowe said...

(mate is nate. Phones are evil)

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Congrats, Miriam!

Your entry was all sorts of wonderful. I confess I was one of those who didn't get it without the clues. And I must say, I always marvel at how good Janet is at "getting" what the entry means or what it conveys. We can put all the layers in there and she will unravel them without breaking shark sweat.

Kudos to the honorable mentions as well!

Michael Seese said...

Great job, Miriamm

Colin, thanks for the hint. I was thinking "pencil" (sharpest) but you showed me the way.

Miriam said...

Thanks everybody! I'm glad people enjoyed figuring out my story. After twenty years in elementary classrooms, I figured I ought to be able to make something out of prompt words like "school" and "old." And much as I love my students, there are times when I'd appreciate teaching a nice quiet cactus! The other entries were amazing. My particular favorites were Amy Schaefer's, which made me laugh, and Lennon Faris's, which gave me goosebumps. It's an honor to be among such talented writers. Thanks, Janet, for another great contest!

Just Jan said...

Congratulations, Miriam, for a winning entry! I loved reading all of them. And thanks for the shout outs from Janet and others--made my night.

Lennon Faris said...

Aw, thanks, Miriam! I always imagine how life could be different if monstrous people had had a different early life.

I'm glad yours was happy and funny after all. I think it's even more brilliant that I had a completely different take on it and still thought it should have won. That's saying something about the writing! Well done!

Stephen G Parks said...

Congrats Miriam.

Gotta admit I needed it spelled out, too. Mistook it for social commentary on recent events.

Mallory Love said...

Congrats Miriam! I loved yours even before I understood and adore it more now that I do. Very clever.