Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Clutch Your Pearls flash fiction contest FINAL results!

This was fun!
A lot of you used the exact phrase, and quite a few of you used it as a jumping off place.
There was no right or wrong way on this one.



Holy Mother of Lady Godiva, can I not escape this man!?
Steve Forti does HIS OWN FORTISSIMO!!!

I figured a few drinks would do the trick.”
Shedding her blouse, she crooned, “Must’ve been your charm.”
Ha. Does it every time.”
Pearls before swine…”
She’d muttered something, but he wasn’t listening.
Would you like me to continue?” She purred.
Have mercy…”
Been a naughty boy, you have. No mercy.” She dangled the handcuffs and pointed.
Clutching the bedframe, he obeyed, heart racing. The cuffs clicked tight, and she tested their hold… then walked over to his discarded pants and pilfered his wallet. As she redressed and exited, he begged and struggled in futility.
The motherfucking key, at least?”



Love the pearl/purl pairing of Jennifer Mugrage

C.Dan Castro made me laugh out loud but my client Richard Gilbert, from beyond the grave, is not amused.



Sheri M, I like how you think!

Steph Ellis, your work should come with a warning label it's so intensely creepy!

Hey Gregory Shipman, welcome back! Long time, no comment!
And this line is wonderful: we’re thieves not beauty consultants

Melanie Sue Bowles cracked me up:
Well, perfect except the groom, bless his heart, but you need one to have a wedding


Karen McCoy (love the talking vole!)
Beatrice inspected her credenza and removed some china eggs, chipped tea cups, and a pink tutu.

What, your credenza doesnt have a pink tutu?


It says absolutely nothing good about me that I laughed out loud with this from Michael Seese
Poor Henry. Never knew what hit him.
I do.
Ball-peen hammer.

Here are the entries that stood out to me

french sojourn
“What a mess…Smitty, call a meat wagon. The coachman’s dead, impaled by a mile marker. One horse flipped over into the ravine, and the other…well, he won’t be runnin in no derby anytime soon. Now, had she been wearin’ Piloti driving shoes, Jack Purcells, Christ, even Pearls woulda been better.”

“Pearls?”

“White rubber croc’s adorned with plastic pearls, my daughters got a pair, silly lookin’ things. Problem is, this ladies’ foot slipped off the pedal.”

“If only she’d downshifted.”

“If she’d had Pearls, she would have been clutching,” the man said looking down at the blood-stained glass slipper.

Barbara Lund
If she’d had pearls, she’d have pawned them. Rent was due again.

Three months ago, she signed the waivers and participated in the study and made enough to last till New Years.

Two months ago, her family looked side-eyed and pinched mouthed when she came to Thanksgiving dinner.

Last month, no invite for Christmas.

And now she was standing over a perfect stranger—who knew where he’d been?—with his cash in her pocket, brains on her lips and under her nails, and red-and-blues flashing closer and closer.

Rent was due. What was a zombie to do?

Kay Madurn
It was the final dive for her entire maternal line, as no one took her place. Once, an important part of a pearl’s cycle, but currents change. This ama knew she and the others were no longer needed in the eyes of the people on the surface. I no naka no kawazu taikai wo shirazu. The oysters still needed her, even if for the last time. Though today was a day of replanting, she wished she could bring some of the ocean back with her. If she only had pearls, she would be clutching them all the way home.


Marie McKay
If she had been an over-priveleged Victorian lady, she might have required her smelling salts.
If she had been a delicate Romantic spinster, she might have set down her intricate but,nevertheless, pointless needlework.
If she had been a stern Georgian mother, she might have clutched at her pearls.
If she had been a frumpy fifties housewife, she might have wrung her dishpan hands.
But thankfully, she was writing her own story and was none, and had been none of those things; so what she had to say was this:
'Damn right. I hear you!'


Timothy Lowe
If
Marlena thought to wear a life jacket
She’d
Be having a better time of it. Instead, all my wife
Had
Around her neck was my string of diamonds, thrown like
Pearls
Before swine into the abyss of infidelity. As
She
Tumbled head-over-heels toward the churning wake, I knew I
Would
Have no problem explaining her absence. Cruise officials
Have
No real legal recourse, especially when the captain has
Been
Recently entangled with a certain passenger in several sweaty,
Clutching
Versions of down dog, as her vengeful selfies will surely attest to
Them.


NLiu
Instead of pearls, she clutched straws. They wouldn't turn to gold. She wept; the little man cackled, demanding her son.

But she got clever, uncovered his name. He vanished… right?

Not quite.

They'd been a team. Pearls from a dragon, boots from a cat. The king's gold about to roll out of his palace in balls of yarn.

Then she betrayed him. Better a royal than a rogue.

Rumpelstiltskin vanished - into a cell.

But the miller's daughter played the king false too. That son he fought for? Not his.

Enthroned now, the boy burns spindles; gold flames in the dark.

AJ Blythe
The girls flocked around, all a flutter, jealous because Drake had chosen her. Trouble was, she hadn’t wanted to be chosen.

Pecking order, he’d said.

Totally stuffed, she’d thought. The only option was flight.

It caused a splash when Drake stopped her. The rest called her a quack and hissed their displeasure.

Many would be jealous of her views to the lake. Her down-filled bed. Wouldn’t care they were caged in. No freedom. She wouldn’t brood about it; she was a Pekin, of the American Pekins. She refused to sit any longer. If they’d been pearls she’d have clutched them.


I like to let the final list sit for a while and look it over with fresh eyes.
Let me know what you think, and if you'd have added any to this list!

UPDATE
Well, I let this sit a good long while didn't I?
Today turned into a hugely busy day and I was forced, forced! I tell ya to dive into a couple new books that arrived in the mail today. (More on those at a later date.)



This week' winner is Timothy Lowe. I loved the story, but what made it extra special was the cadence and the form. It's a gorgeous entry to read.

Tim, confirm your mailing address for me and I'll get a prize in the mail to you!

45 comments:

Aphra Pell said...

[clutches pearls and smelling salts and swoons onto a chaise longue with the suspense]

Forti was, as usual, terrifyingly brilliant, and Steph Ellis was brilliantly terrifying (I'm going to remember that story for a loooong time).

My favourites were Steph and AJ Blythe... and NLiu... and Kay Madurn.

And I just can't make up my mind.

[collapses back onto chaise longue and demands a Sense and Sensibility era Alan Rickman wield a fan]

Kitty said...

I know he's not in the running, but I still like Steve Forti's the best.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Loved AJ's - a whole lot. Then Timothy's after that. Another great round of flash.

Theresa said...

So wonderfully creative! My favorite was from French Sojourn.

Steve Forti said...

This one was an easy call for me: Hank was my favorite. Loved the prompt use.
And props to Timothy for a great first sentence.

julie.weathers said...

I enjoyed all of them so much. It's hard for me to pick out a favorite. I am of no use. Some I didn't understand, which is normal for me also.

I'm glad Janet is judging and not me.

The Noise In Space said...

I'm very glad that Steve Forti ascended this mortal plane long ago, because it just wouldn't be fair. But I have to say, Timothy Lowe is right on his heels. A great story, masterfully told. And the artistry of NLiu's last line is just incredible. Those are my top two and I don't think I can choose between them.

NLiu said...

Aphra Pell, you crack me up! I shall join you swooning and hope Mr Rickman might condescend to waft a fan in my general direction - once he has revived you with your smelling salts and enquired most solicitously after your good health of course!

Out of the finalists, I liked Barbara's the most. (Brainsssssssssss...)

But my favourite was... Steph's. I think. *bites nails*

Jennifer Mugrage said...

I want me some of those pearly white crocs. Really, this contest was perfect for Spring.

But what I don't understand is why you need a clutch to drive a coach with horses.

Karen McCoy said...

Thanks for the mention! The vole is blushing. And he still hates pink tutus.

Marie McKay's entry is delightfully subtle, but all the finalists are great!

Karen McCoy said...

And Aphra Pell, I will join you in the Rickman swooning club.

french sojourn said...


Thanks Steve, and Jennifer, you are exactly right. I was trying to set up voice and scene mixed with a bridge of disbelief...suspended logic? My first thought was of an auxiliary brake...but with clutching being the operative word...well I had to shift gears, so to speak.

Thanks Janet for the contest. It's a great mental exercise.

Cheers Hank.

french sojourn said...


p.s. Marie... I just love ..."pointless needlework"....pretty slick!

JanR said...

I’m with Julie – so glad not to be the judge! So many amazing stories here. Of the shortlisters, thank you Kay not only for the haunting story but for sending me on a wonderful internet dive into the craft of the ama, thank you. And Barbara’s line about “brains on her lips” – aagh! The acrostic ones were so clever too, as was Hank’s wordplay.

Shout outs to a couple not on the list: Luralee’s fractured fairytale made me laugh and Karen’s vole-why a vole? Never mind I don't need to know why a vole. The vole makes it. It's wonderful.

Kay Madurn said...

I'm fairly new to all of this, but I very much enjoyed everyone's stories. (I was particularly tickled by the talking vole!) I went down the rabbit hole of reading Steve Forti's past entries. They are all brilliant, and this one was no exception.

Adele said...

N. Liu gets my vote, because Rumpelstiltskin needs reimagining. I've always thought it was the nastiest of all the fairy tales, and I am glad to hear that psycho king was eliminated from the gene pool. (why yes, I do feel strongly on the subject, however did you guess?)

Steve Forti said...

Welcome Kay! And glad I could entertain. I feel honored to have a rabbit hole :)

Steph Ellis said...

Congratulations everyone. Loved all the stories and the fact we're all so different. Thank you for the kind comments about my horrific little tale - mothers, eh?

Richelle Elberg said...

Casting my vote for Barbara Lund. These damn clinical studies...

Karen McCoy said...

JanR, he insisted. I told him, "Voles are small" and he said, "Make it work." And thank you, Kay! I loved your story about pearl divers also!

Lennon Faris said...

These were a varied bunch! but oh so good in their own ways. I don't think I could pick a fav yet...

Hank/ french sojourn, I was imagining a Cinderella story gone horribly wrong.

Congrats, all.

Craig F said...

I will cast my lot with Hank, though I doubt that all that many people understand downshifting and clutching anymore.

That is what makes a manual transmission one of the burglar protections.

AJ Blythe said...

Aphra, just stealing Alan Rickman for a moment for a twirl on the dance floor. I'm sure he'll lead me in a more elegant waltz than the happy jig I just did (which scared the dog).

As always, the amazing talent here makes me glad I didn't have to short-list. A shout-out to 2Ns and John David Frain's entries, and Lennon's for the most relatable.

Steve Forti, your entry cracked me up. I would have really liked to have been a fly on the wall when Janet read it.

Claire Bobrow said...

Oooh - tough choice! They're all superb, but I love a good fairytale twist, so I'm leaning toward Hank or NLiu.
Great work everyone!

Claire Bobrow said...

I'm in the clutches of a rotten cold and forgot to add my name to the Alan Rickman dance card. Gotta love a guy who doesn't take himself too seriously, by which I mean: Galaxy Quest.

Karen McCoy said...

Feel better, Claire! And yes, Galaxy Quest was one of my favorite roles of his.

Michael Seese said...

Though NLiu and Marie McKay are part of my Twitter Support Troupe, I really liked the implied twist of Barbara Lund's story.

Just Jan said...

Hank knocked all words out of my head with the top of the Saturday morning entry. Evidently, I'm not so great at pearl clutching. I also enjoyed AJ Blythe's take on the subject.

This round had such varied and enjoyable entries. Can't wait to see who Janet picks!

C. Dan Castro said...

Thanks for the shout-out Janet! (And don’t haunt me, Richard Gilbert! My dad worked on Madison Avenue for many decades. [And Jerry Della Femina has already threatened to haunt me one day!])

Luralee said...

Thank you JanR. I’m glad it made you laugh :)
And thanks to Julie for the wonderful prompt!
Now how to choose, Rumplestiltskin or zombies...

Timothy Lowe said...

Enjoyed your story, C. Dan Castro. Nice pacing there. Marie McKay, my vote's gotta be with you. Way to make it into something meaningful. I do have to say Hank's interpretation of the prompt made me laugh, as did John Davis (ms) Frain's. Thanks for hosting another masterclass, Janet. It was a hoot.

NLiu said...

Congrats, Tim!

And thanks so much to everyone for your kind comments! You peeps really made my day.

Adele: I am so with you re: the king!

John Davis Frain said...

I'm finally getting to the reef, and judging from the comments, I'm just in time to see Timothy Lowe deservedly on the podium. Well done, Tim.

And kudos to editing!

I noticed Mr. Lowe had entered early on Saturday, had a Eureka moment at the grocery store, pulled numbers 57 through 94 at the deli counter to rewrite four lines of his entry (much to the chagrin of the lady in the blue hat who only wanted four slices of muenster), sneaked through the express lane with 22 items in his cart, and bolted home without the milk that he'd originally been assigned to purloin, sorry, purchase, all to update his entry with some deft editing work.

So, if you're scoring at home, he's down one gallon of milk but up one new book. Always a good trade when you can make it.

(I'm Tim's butcher. I've seen this act before.)

french sojourn said...


Congrats Timothy Lowe, I like how you "cruised" in for the win...sweet!

Thanks for the nice comments fellow reefers! So much talent here, cheers!

Hank

NLiu said...

Oh and by the way if anyone feels like reading a full length Rumpelstiltskin inspired story I can recommend Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver - i's a fascinating take. (Nothing like mine though.)

Marie McKay said...

Congratulations, Timothy! Loved how you used the prompt. Great writing as well.

Thanks for all the kind comments on mine.
And thanks Janet for these contests. It's amazing to see what everyone comes up with.

Amy Johnson said...

Congrats, Timothy! Very cool, what you did there. For your winner's party, I was thinking about what could be done with a pearl theme. What to serve? My mock tuna salad made with garbanzo beans came to mind, but that's not really pearlesque. Then, the answer: I'll come up with a recipe for mock oyster souffle! We're going black tie for this celebration, friends! Break out the pearls if you have them. But there will be no need for clutching. This should be delightful! Congratulations again, Timothy!

Steve Forti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Forti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Timothy Lowe said...

Funny story. I picked up Hiaasen's Skinny Dip in anticipation for an upcoming cruise. The novel begins with a guy tossing his wife overboard. Now my wife is giving me funny looks.

You guys are way too funny. JDF, Amy Johnson, you make me laugh. No, Mr. Frain is not my butcher, but I think that might be the inspiration for my next FF piece.

Honored as always to roll with this crew.

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Good choice. Timothy Lowe's was a delight to read.

Barbara Lund said...

Congratulations Timothy! What a fantastic bunch of stories. Thrilled to be included in the stand outs. Now I'm off... to eat more braaaaains.

Claire Bobrow said...

Congrats, Timothy! I'll be sending your wife a life jacket :-)

Timothy Lowe said...

Claire - Ha! If anything, she'll be tossing me overboard!

Karen McCoy said...

Well done, Timothy! Beautifully poetic.