Friday, March 15, 2019

The slightly uneven, off kilter, write your way back to normal flash fiction contest

Honestly, this week was just weird as can be for me. Was it off-kilter for you too?

The only remedy is a writing contest!

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:

To compete for the Steve Forti Deft Use of Prompt Words prize (or if you are Steve Forti) you must also use:

(hopes springs eternal in the Forti-tude battle of wits!)

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: list/glisten is ok, but tilt/tlinget 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.

8a. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail...just leave me out of it.)

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 later 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, March 16,7:29am
Contest closes Sunday, March 17, 9am

If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock

If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's an .xls spread sheet here

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid

Ready? SET?

Not yet!

oops too late! contest closed


Kate Outhwaite said...

Nothing seemed out of kilter that night. None of his listlessness, no edginess about him. Our dinner guests had gone home happy.

So I just wasn’t ready when he leaned in and whispered, “I saw how you looked at him. Bitch.”

The rest comes in flashes.

A hand crushing a bruise still lingering from the last time.

A fist to my ribs.

The world tilting.

A bloodied bottle rolling across the floor.

His broken face.

Wiping my hands so I can dial.

Flashing blue lights.

A bodybag.

I tried to explain. “It’s just how he shows he loves me.”

Steve Forti said...

Peoplewatching at the beach is always a treat. I lock eyes with a deaf woman who’d been enjoying the rolling cerulean waves drifting in from afar. I stop. Ha. Nestled behind her is a dastardly criminal.

I st
rain to recall the alphabet in ASL. Um…


I on
ly know that much. I flap like a bird and motion my hand towards my open mouth until the embarrassment hits and I immediately regret the unintended perverted gesture. Her off-kilter expression tells me I’ve horrified her. Screw it. I point. Hopefully she can read lips.

“That seagull just stole your hot dog!”

Kregger said...

Never challenge Zombie barist-o-thanes to an eating contest.

Leaning over the Black Pearl’s rail vomiting, sucked.

My bed bucked like a Kraken on a kilter-board.

My brain listed to starboard and my innards rolled like the Fitz on Lake Superior in November.

Fortunately, my bellows are secure, but my cracked lower unit is unfit for service.

Marine fare is simply inedible.

Seriously, slumgullion is Hungarian goulash!

Not Atlantis’ version of Arctic terns regurgitating Burger-barn fries from the sidewalk at Coney Island!


When Rumpelstiltskin asks, “Rapunzel, wanna go sailing with Johnny Depp?”

“Ahhh…no. Hell no!”

Timothy Lowe said...

Home from Paris, top Hanes model Freddy TooTight went to see his agent.

“I can’t believe this! Working on St. Pat’s!”

“It’s a volunteer gig, Freddy. Serving slumgullion to the underprivileged. Roll with it!”

“But . . . green underwear? And this godawful Leprechaun hat? You know I hate that ritualistic crap.”

“Necessities, kid. You wanna go back to that lean-to I found you in?”

Grumbling, Freddy acquiesced. But not totally. When he arrived at the picnic, the good ladies of the Zion Episcopal Church were dismayed to discover he’d decided to go full kilt.

Error was not achieved until the wind blew.

Aphra Pell said...

“Uncle Kev, what’s that noise?”
“In this slum? Gull, ionic mutant rat-monster…”
“Kev! You’ll scare him.”
“Mummy, I found a jug and cleaned it and it tilted and a man rolled out and his name was Harry Stuff-Fannies…”
“…and he said I could wish for anything as long as it was a bird. I said birds were dinosaurs and he said he hadn’t thought of that. So I thought the noise might be it arriving.”
“What darling?”
“My dinosaur. Night night.”
“Are those pictures off-kilter?”
“Don’t be daft.”
“Kev, listen.”
“Look at your glass.”

Amy Johnson said...

Ari was really only about Ari. “Like me.” “Like what I write.” Truth didn’t matter. Or who got hurt.

My brilliant friend was on Ari’s list. “He’s off-kilter, dangerous.” Ari persisted, slinging a slumgullion of accusations and mockery, claiming justice while tilting the scales. He leaned hard on others, and opinions rolled against my friend. The people never applied reason, only believed what Ari put in front of them. Like they were raised in a cave. They couldn’t see anything else. Or they wouldn’t.

The result: death threats, and finally my friend was silenced.

But I can write, too.


Craig F said...

He grew up lean and poor, a little southwest of Tellico. Tilting at oil rigs was about all there was to do there, even without the depression.

Moving to west Dallas, he rolled through the list of small-time crimes, mostly to eat.

He met her there, but was sent to Eastham Prison Farm. Killing a sexually abusive fellow inmate threw things of kilter She smuggled in a gun so he could break out, after he killed his abuser with a pipe.

He just wanted to work for prison reform, but Bonnie looked into his eyes. Clyde saw their destiny there.

Marie McKay said...

The other me seems kind. I lean into her world to listen to what she is saying. But it is out of kilter with mine. Her words are rustling leaves. She places her hand out like a petal and tilts her head towards the sun.
A son we should share. I am cold here at the edge of my rolling landscape; it is time, I know, to travel back before I am lost.
I surrender to the long journey home and watch her float away on the curve of a teardrop.

C. Dan Castro said...

Tappy’s stored cage sits. Off-kilter. An empty cage in an empty house.

Sarah named her Tappy for her waddling sounds.

Tap, tap, tap, rapped her talons.

The cage lists more. Precarious. I can’t care.

But Tappy could soar! A lean, mean bolt of yellow and orange plumage. Sarah said Tappy could do any maneuver she could.

Even a barrel roll.

Ludicrous. I had smiled then.

Now we’d all gone down in flames. My crashing and burning the least. Just my being. My will to continue.

The cage falls. Clatters. Empty wreckage.

I sob. Nothing to do until tomorrow.

The funeral.

Colin Smith said...

I thought something was off-kilter when I saw Ari stop. Hanes dropped in front, his dirty wings beating the air like an angry child.

“What’s up with that?” I said to Ari. “Hanes is a slum-gull. I, on the other hand, am an eagle. I lean and tilt into the wind. He lists and rolls like a drunk albatross. And you’re a bleedin’ falcon!”

“Don’t be fooled by appearances, my friend,” said Ari. “Hanes paid good money for that place. More than we could ever afford, that’s for sure.”

“But that’s not fair!”

“Welcome to college admissions, 2019,” Ari sighed.

cjohs said...

The small room was clean, yet something blistered Harry's nostrils.
Hermione sat in the alcove reading "The ABC of Deities", eating Stilton. She never ate anything but Silvia Slughorn's Stinky Stilton. She said it kept her tummy kilter.
Harry always ate, together with Ron, the slumgullion of the common room.
'I'm over halfway through now, on a roll', she said not looking up.
Harry looked over her shoulder: the header on the page read "Paris to Phanes".
'Find anything about Nicolas Flamel?'
'No, we may have to look in the restricted section.'
Harry's stomach roiled. 'Can I have a bite?'

Steph Ellis said...

“He kilt ‘er,” screamed the child. “He kilt ‘em all.” She sank to the ground sobbing, leant against the body of the one she claimed as mother.

They listened to her words, as always. After all, why would a child lie?

The mob edged towards the man, her assumed father, his blood-soaked clothes condemning him. They didn’t realise it was his own, that he would be rolling in the dirt before they set upon him, that their own would soon mingle with his.

It was Hell and it was hers. She tilted her head and smiled. Rose up behind them.

shanepatrickwrites said...

“Ari, stop,” Hanes said. “You kilt ‘er and I’m gonna prove it.”

Ari shrugged, ripped a roll in half and used it to sop up the last of the slumguillion in his tilted bowl.

“I’m torn up that my funny, intelligent, supermodel of a wife is missing. I eat when I’m distraught. You hungry?”

Detective Hanes shook his head.

“Wanna know the secret to a great stew? I’d be happy to give you the whole ingredient list, but it ain’t the fresh basil or hand-pounded coriander, it’s the meat,” he nodded toward the almost empty kettle. “Lean meat.”

Adele said...


I breathed. Akademos would be glad to have me, Mom said. “Until tonight” I whispered “when it’s over.”

Easy questions became harder. “Trigonal planar is to phanes as ____________ is to slumgullion.” Damn. Cellophane. Tryptophan. I wedged “cassoulet” into the blank.

Something’s off kilter. He saunters in, late and uncaring. Lean, beautiful. Son of an A-lister. Winked, and I knew. Three years on the honor roll fell onto the floor with my dreams.

Beth Carpenter said...

“He clean kilt ‘er!”

Good grief, can’t I have two minutes to pee without them murdering each other?

Madison’s under the biggest tree, rubbing her knee.

“Aw, she’s alive.” Tucker pouts.

“Where’s your brother?”

They point upward. He stretches toward a wedged soccer ball. The branch bobs.

“Don’t be a hero, Lloyd. I already have one damaged kid.”

“I nearly got it…” The bough cracks.

I leap forward and trip over Madison. Lloyd lands on atop us both. I herd them inside, dispense band-aids and popsicles, and make the call.

“Listen, when—"

“They can’t pay ransom until tomorrow.”


french sojourn said...

He walked with a list to starboard whenever he was on dry land. And he always delineated the difference between land, and dry land. He’d be down to the Rusty Scupper. Usually talking to some flatlander, greenhorn, or worse…some masshole from Bahston, trolling for drinks as he leaned off kilter at the bar.

“The good thing about the ocean is, why you’re never farther than seven miles from land.”

“But it’s 3500 miles from California to Hawaii.” Some greenhorn would reply.

He’d smirk, tilting his cap slightly and point his thumb to the floor, “now I never said dry land.”

JanR said...

His name was Aristophanes,
He punked the Greeks with puns.
He rolled them in their aisles of stone,
He strove ‘gainst strophes for fun.

Won every tilt with comic wit,
Kept lists of lazy lords.
He leaned on creamfatcats and yes,
Off-kilter kept the world.

Chorus: But…
Even this bard, playful playwright of wordplay,
Didn’t try to make “slumgullion” scan in poetry – no way!

Kyler said...

He thought he might be on a roll when his agent told him how many submissions she made on his novel. But alas, his mood was tilted when the latest response from a very cool editor said, “He employs a great voice in THE BIG ORANGE MOTORCYCLE. It’s engagingly off-kilter, light on its feet, breezily confident. But my list is filled with too many unique love projects at the moment.” After getting this rejection, the writer was leaning toward quitting the whole damn scene altogether. Oh! An email from his agent! It said simply, “Onward.”

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

“Was it off-kilter for you too?” You’ve got to be kidding.
I had a heart attack.
You want tilt, you want lean, try a 3am dash to a 24 hour emergency room and then rolling down the highway, lights and sirens screaming. I won’t list the procedures but in that ambulance I asked myself three questions.
Have I been where I have wanted to go? Yes.
Any regrets? No
Am I leaving behind anything that would sour my family’s memories of me? No. Dust under the bed doesn’t count.
Thanks for asking and blessed to be alive.

Sherin Nicole said...


“...a mango california roll,” we say in unison.

His head tilts. “How did you know?”

“I’m having déjà vu.” I lean in. “I feel, um, off kilter.”

“C’mon, Aristophanes,” we say simultaneously.

“You know who that is?” he smirks.

I lean away.

“Damn,” he says, his smile’s a cold front, “we’re perfect for each other.”

I realize—like it’s a memory—I don’t like him. His conversation is a slumgullion of memes and condescension. And he doesn’t listen, just brags about his invention, something about cognitive science.

Why am I still here? I rise to leave.


“...a mango california roll.”

RosannaM said...

I pointed out the new crack and the way the marble rolled across the floor. Stanley’s lip tilted up as he condescended.


Wanting to wipe that smirk clean off his face with sandpaper and saltwater, I tried again to explain, but I staggered suddenly off-kilter. Knowing exactly what was happening, I grabbed the kids as the floor listed fifty degrees. Army-crawled them upwards, fingernails scrabbling for purchase. Fighting gravity inch by painful inch, I managed to heave us through the door, just as the earth Moby Dicked our house into the newly created sinkhole, landlord and all.

Lennon Faris said...

The killer’s taken my aunt, grandma, and mother. I’m showering when he comes for me.

I slip through waiting rooms, sterile halls, sobbing voices. He follows.

Never understood why they stopped fighting.

I run.

Rolling hilltop reckoning.
I scream, “Joy-sucker!”
“No,” –he’s matter-of-fact –“I just take your life.”

My off-kilter body aches. I turn, remove my pinching shoes. Far away, the ocean glistens. Forgot how blue the sky is, how warm the sunshine. If I lean forward, my toes dig into clover. I tilt my face skyward.

Behind me, the crunch of gravel.


“Lovely day.” I sip my margarita.

Michael Seese said...

“Hey, MacLeod! Your balls are showing. You ought to get a better slip.”


Kilters always hate it when you insult their tartans.

Sure, my trolling bordered on juvenile. But I needed him off his game. Rumor had it a buyer was coming.

Then she walked in. I nearly flipped. A definite A-lister.

“Nice,” she cooed, touching me, pressing all the right buttons, ringing my bells. “Very clean. I'll...”

She saw him and lit up. Like we did, once.

“Funhouse may be a classic. But Highlander was my favorite. I spent hours playing it. Sold.”

Story of my life.


Megan V said...

Maggie didn’t go to college for an M.R.S. degree, but her interest in Greek myths made her wed and bed a mortal Ares.
“This is war, Mags. War!”
“No, it’s golf.”
“It’s the same thing.”
“Not to me. And not to Jill, Leanne, or Claudia.” They’d all had enough.
“So…do you remember that play by Aristophanes?”
He frowned. “Listoftatas?”
“Lysistrata,” Maggie said.
“What about it?”
Maggie thought of the women’s pact: no wicked slum gul, lioness and the cheese grater, tilt of the kilt, erotic foreplay, or any kind of roll in the hay.
“It’s about to become reality.”

Mallory Love said...

“Listen,” she signed.
He smiled. He couldn’t help it. He got so distracted by her cerulean eyes and that cute little crinkle in her forehead when she pouted. It was hard to focus on just her hands.
She tilted her thumb horizontally, rolling her middle fingers in while her outer two stretched out, off-kilter.
He shook his head. Learning ASL was harder than he thought. “Longhorn?”
She sighed.
“Surf’s up? Although, I think it’s supposed to look like this.” He reversed her hand movements and added a little wave.
She groaned and cupped his face. Then she kissed him.

Unknown said...

“B-17. That’s B-17.”

“Look at this, girl. His kilt erupts off his butt like – I just wanna – ummm.”

“Tilt it this way, sugar. I can’t see!”

“O-25. That’s O-25”

“Those abs, girl! Tightest rolls I’ve ever seen. Sweet Jesus!” She fanned her face with the dessert list.

“Let me see!”

“Don’t lean in so far.”

“N-3. That’s N-3.”

The screen went blank as it chimed. “Hello dear – Yes, I got it yesterday. Thank you! You were right. Easier to take calls – Okay dear. Gotta go. Bye!”

“Give me that thing, sugar!”

“BINGO!” yelled the old slut from the next table.

John Davis Frain said...

She was a minimalist, he a hoarder. A rocky relationship.

“Opposites attract,” he peeped, rolling another marble into the nest’s corner. When they ran out of room in the roost, he added an aerie. The herculean effort cost a few feathers, but it housed his shiny-thing collection.

For strength, instead of sticks, he used sheetrock shavings. Took it for granite the branch would hold. Until the wind arrived. The off-kilter nest—unhatched eggs inside—fell into the rock garden.

Slated to become a family, they’d lost two birds on one stone.

“Till next spring,” she chirped. “I’ll be your Gibraltar.”

NLiu said...

The Slumgull ion engines shuddered. The deck tilted as the autogravity failed.

The Sporkons were gaining.

“Code amber!” Ollie yelled. “Anything on board might help? Aristo don't pay corpses!”

Leanne rummaged. “Aside from the Last Cupcake? Listerine, a roll of… what's this? Duct tape? Dairylea Nibblers circa 2025, and your - is this a kilt…? Errr…” She paused ominously. “We still have the Time Transductifier.”

They looked at each other.

“Save the Cupcake!”


Leanne and Ollie sprawled in the dust. Rows of faces. Togas. A theatre?

“What the…?”
“Ancient Greece… Aristophanes? Captain - you hit the wrong button!”
“I… Oh Cupcakes.”

Will MacPhail said...

Ivan gets in the truck smoking a rollie cigarette, and says, “I kilter.”

His accent puts me on tilt, so I say, “Listen, I told you before, speak English.”

“Yes, very well English.”

I lean over, and say, “Keep it up and you’ll be paid in potatoes.”

“Potatoes very bad carbohydrates, yes?”

Looking at the service order, I say, “So, how did it go? Is it done?”

“Yes, I kilter.”

“What’s that?”

Making a stabbing motion he says, “Kilter.”

“Killed her?”


“Jesus, Ivan, again?”

“You no like?”

“We’re exterminators. Bugs. I explained this.”

“Yes, very much exterminated.”

Alina Sergachov said...

Why was I consigned to Carkoon?

Stilted speech is replaced by the sound of the sarlacc. The smell of the slumgullion is even worse than the taste of Kale.
(another day without pizza from JanR)

Scroll? I try to write a poem.

“Where are you from?” the Sphinx roars and rears its ugly head—
A human head that doesn’t belong on the body of a lion.
You riddle me this to get rid of me.
Good riddling. Good riddance.

Aristophanes poked fun at people too… Listen, I just tried to be funny.

One word: hiraeth.
Bolingbrook, IL. Terrible place. Home.

Tussen De Lijnen said...

Why is the Milky Way off-kilter? It is not where it should be. It’s leaning back on the hills, tilting its head, roguishly and ancient as Aristophanes.
With an unexpected belch it folds over and rolls to its side. Or did the earth do that? Did I? The fusty piece of meat pie I had for dinner? Oh rats, I hope I didn’t catch listeria. Or was it the bottle of bourbon?
I bellycrawl across the dirt, slow but determined as the Slumgullion. But not down. I keep crawling higher and higher, towards the stars.

Just Jan said...

Murder, the coroner listed on the death certificate.

When my dog died, I buried him in the backyard, read a poem, cried a bit. Turning from the grave, I spied a diminutive man with cerulean eyes and orange beard.

He tilted his hat. “How do I get there?”

I blinked, off-kilter. “Where?”

“The Rainbow Bridge.”

The pounding in my head intensified. “It’s a one-way trip.”

He pleaded. Cajoled. Rolled on the ground and beat his fists.

I demurred—until he sunk his teeth into my ankle.

A neighbor saw me raise my shovel.

“Guilty!” the judge proclaimed.

Damned leprechauns.

RKeelan said...

Jean d’Orléans was said to be the hardest man to tilt the lists. It was almost true.


“He won’t even lift his visor to acknowledge an opponent!”

“Don’t worry about him, Simon,” my sister said.

But when I added that he was my first bout, she was off kilter for days.


Simon's poorly controlled lance skittered off my shield, somehow finding the space between my breastplate and helm.

I tumbled to newly crimsoned earth.

Simon approached hesitantly, afraid of l’Ogre d’Orléans even as she lay dying.

I pushed up my visor, wishing to see my brother once more.

Claire Bobrow said...

Ion lived by the beach.
His parents were seabirds of a certain caliber -
snobs, to be blunt.
They preferred Plato to Aristophanes,
taught Ion to swoop and soar with grace,
list and tilt, never off kilter,
lean into the wind and dive like an aerial Greg Louganis.
Meals consisted of cockles and kippers, oysters on the half shell, sushi grade tuna when they could get it.
Never, ever hotdogs or rolls snatched from unwary toddlers.
How déclassé.
But one day, Ion spied the city dump,
and in a trice, he became...
Slum Gull Ion.