Monday, December 14, 2015

Killing Trail flash fiction contest results!

As usual, you both terrified me and amazed me with your entries. Herewith the results

Special recognition for an entry that just cracked me up
Timothy Lowe 10:33am

Special recognition for a great sentence:
Brigid 10:42pm
They grew up in the crossfire of every policy change, every budget cut.

Kimber 12:17am
There was no reboot after RA.8ies.

Special recogniton for use of prompt words:
Steve Forti 10:20am: ouroboros

Julie M. Weathers 12:51am: Jeroboam

The Sleepy One 6:42pm
"Whatever. Just have my medical catnip prescription ready by COB,” the tabby barked out.

Here are the entries that made the long list:
MeganV 9:51am
Steve Forti 10:20am
Gillian 12:16pm

Julie M. Weathers 12:51pm
Kim English 12:56pm
Donnaeve 6:48pm

Steve Wilkins 11:35pm

Here are the entries that made the short list:

(1) Lobo 12:31pm

Hated to do it to him. A legend. But we weren’t playing games anymore.

“You and what army?” he laughed, facial scars from countless winters on the trail wrinkling up like weathered bark on an oak.

“It’s all of us,” Vix said. “Big guy’s developed a taste for snow. The jolly kind. We got leverage.”

“Sorry, Rud,” a robotically cold voice rasped. “You’re history.”

The old vet turned and squinted into the stable’s shadow. “Don?”

Then he was down on the cobblestones. Never saw me coming.

Until his last breath.

“Et tu, Blixen?” he gasped.

His red nose flickered out.

I always love a story that makes me laugh and wince at the same time. "Et tu, Blixen" is hilarious, but poor Rud(olph)!  And "big guy's developed a taste for snow. The jolly kind" is brilliant.

(2) The Doorman 1:16pm

“Dea, I understand. We’ve vetted the applicant...15...”A” student...Boy Scout...Responsible. Don’t worry.”

Nod. Sigh. Push my cobb salad away. She slides the contract across to me.

I see the teen outside, waiting, his finger trailing the bark of the willow I’ve longed to fell.

He’s staring at me.

He smiles. Robotic. Sociopathic. Murderous.


I sign, shaking hand. “ little Ethan was killed by a sitter. Not even $1 million could take away the pain. I have vowed to keep this baby safe.” I glance toward the gurgling bundle.

Pause. Then, I planned.

This is utterly creepy in a very good way. "the willow I've longed to fell" is such a lovely hint of what's to come.

The only thing I'd change here is use of ellipses. You don't need them. A period actually works better in terms of style and rhythm.

(3) John Frain 4:30pm

Veteran Detective Mike Moynihan trails behind, hopes these witnesses corroborate earlier testimony.

“It’s Number One,” the husband barks.

“The Quaker?” Moynihan surprised. No match. Turns to the wife. “And you, ma’am?”

Points at Tony, in the stripes. “Number Three.”

“Grrrrreat,” Moynihan says, mocking. Three eyewitnesses, three identifications. Earlier witness picked Number Five: Cap’n in cobalt blue.

Chief walks in. Lapel reads Frank N. Berry. “Same M.O.?”

Moynihan nods. “Whacks the victim with a ceramic bowl. Stabs him with a spoon.”

Berry nodding. “No question. Signature of a cereal killer.”

Berry’s radio snaps, crackles. Pops to Moynihan as he leaves, “Cheerio.”

You have to read this one twice to really get the full effect. "Cereal killer" is of course the first broad hint, but when you re-read it's not the first hint.

The only thing wrong with this story is that it's missing Count Chocula.

It's so easy to be too overt or too subtle in stories like this. This one is perfect.

(4) Sara Halle 1:44am
Up here, no one can keep Rudolph in the dark. When Moppet and Velvet started doing more than cobbling in their trailer workshop, I knew. And when the bearded guy decided to impress his son, I prepared for trouble.

Kringle, Jr., who's as useful as a swimsuit in a snowstorm, does like drones, so Santa embarked on a test run. One flying robot, my would-be replacement, lit a bright red path in the sky — then plummeted down.

No one watching was more relieved than Moppet. His sabotage kept my job safe — and ensured Mrs. Moppet wouldn't learn about Velvet.

Christmas has arrived with a vengeance! Rudolph is really getting a work out this week. This entry made me laugh, particularly "as useful as a swimsuit in a snowstorm"

(5) Michael Seese 9:38am

She had a double wide heart, and a behind to match. Lonely beyond repair, Maggie would sit in her trailer and think of the men who'd come into her life, and never really left.

Darrel, whose face looked like it was cobbled together by Picasso and Dr. Frankenstein.

Edgar, so stiff he made robots look lively.

Al, he of the unshaven mug that felt like shagbark hickory in her hands.

Danny, the veterinarian who tried so hard to save Mr. Puff. For that effort, Maggie buried him beside her beloved pet.

The rest she just scattered across the north 40.

The opening line should be a country western song. And "never really left" is much much creepier after you've read the whole story.

And you'll notice the first letters of the men spell out a word vertically?  Very very clever! (and of course, that the prompt works are in the same order they appear in the contest announcement)

There's simply no way not to choose John Frain as the winner. It's both hilarious, well-written and subtle.  

Thanks to all of you who took the time to enter, and congratulations to all the short and long list writers.  



Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Congrats John. Fantabulous all.

Leigh Caron said...

Congrats John, and to all. Some great reads.

Kitty said...

Congrats to John and to all.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Congratulations John and to all the others mentioneds. Loved the humor and so many Christmas themes. What a great contest. I appreciated flashfriday's entry too.

CynthiaMc said...

Way to go, John and all the mentions! Woo hoo!

Kitty said...

Btw, Michael, congrats on the acrostic! I love those. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent an obscene acrostic message when he was governor, which made the news.

MC said...

I picked John's too! So clever! Congrats to all the winners.
And now, back to my bowl of Lucky Charms.

Donnaeve said...

I am SO happy John Frain won this! I absolutely loved it, quirky, fun, and creative! I re-read it several times just b/c I loved the last line so much.

When I read The Doorman's entry, I was like "ooooo, this one's a finalist." It's that last line that especially wrapped it all up.

I liked Michael Seese's entry too. BUT, I didn't catch the D.E.A.D or the fact he used the words in order.

I'm happy to have a shout-out on the long list! Whoop!

AND, I was happy to see Gabby joined into the FF fray.

And I've had about three cups of coffee. Can anyone tell.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I loved John's entry. Brilliant. Hilarious. So much fun. Good job everyone- mentions and all entries. I was an incubus of viral plague this weekend so no writing was done at all. Still loved reading these entries between head spins and projectile vomiting.

I can't thank Janet enough for the time she puts into this. And all the brilliant writers she attracts. Good start to the week.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Congratulations, you guys! I really dug John Frain's entry.

Also, did you know that some shops online sell spoons embossed with "cereal killer"?

Dena Pawling said...

Congratulations everyone! So many entries that made me laugh. I loved Timothy Lowe, LOL

Have a great week.

Colin Smith said...

Well done, John! I found this a tough one, so I'm super impressed with you, and with all of the mentions and finalists for coming up with such creative stories out of these words. I'm also glad to see Donna in the short-list. I thought she'd at least get that far with hers.

I need to up my intake of Wheaties for the next one... ;)

Steve Forti said...

Congrats John. An impressive string of high quality entries from you lately. Kudos (the props kind or the granola kind, both good things.)

@Timothy Lowe, yours was definitely my favorite. Read that and said, "well, I didn't win this week." Very well done.

Donnaeve said...

Okay back from a run where brain cells were popping like...well, you know. Cereal?

I read some time ago that if you want to surprise your reader, turn your intended story on its head. That I did not do in the entry.

I'll use mine as an example b/c like Colin mentioned, I struggled a bit this weekend with all the stuff going on. I worked on it Friday. I worked on it Sat a.m. and it was basically done, yet needed a tweak or two. I left before 8 a.m. and got home around 5, and played around with it some more. Entered.

Having said all that - on my run just now I came up with this ending, and I kind a/sort a wished I'd thought of it before entering:

He snuck up behind her.
She hadn’t expected his hand on her shoulder.
He hadn’t expected her to grab it.
Or her tears.

IMO (and trust me, that's probably worth the toilet paper you used this morning) it turns it more on its head b/c you, dear Reiders, might have concluded it was sort of a predictable ending with the whole jump thing. IDK.

To me, this would have been a better ending. Her outfit intended to give you a hint as to her mental state, (jumper!) and then, instead, we get tears of gratitude.

Just thinking out loud and taking up space out here. :)

E.M. hope you're feeling better!

Megan V said...

Congrats John! And everyone!

The holidays are definitely rollin' around.

Donnaeve: I did not see the jump coming. It made me gasp. Then read again. And gasp some more. Your entry was actually my favorite.

In the spirit of full disclosure: I liked the Doorman's entry, but I still can't figure out exactly what's happening in it. My brain clearly needs some more snap crackle n pop this morning.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to all the entries. I loved John's because it was cute and made me laugh. I like cute and funny.

The other entries, all of them were great. Good job, y'all.

On another note, is Julia missing again?

Brigid said...

Megan, same here. I can see the scene vividly, but I'm not sure what's going on. Is she having a second child killed by a babysitter for the insurance payout?

By the way, have y'all heard about the DuSable library protests? 200 students actually DID walk out of class because the latest budget cut took away their librarian. They sat in the hall doing Sustained Silent Reading as a protest.

And it sounds like Sara Sayigh and one of her predecessors, Irma Clarke, were stellar librarians. Sayigh went to bat to get grants for functioning computers for the kids, and Clarke created a huge section of the library dedicated to African-American history, lit, and philosophy. (I do a ridiculous amount of research for every 100-word story.)

Timothy Lowe said...

@Steve Forti, @Dena Pawling - thanks - tried to do something light. This one I wrote very fast. Glad you liked it. Steve - loved your take on Frosty - I still want to find out where the corncob pipe ended up. And Dena, your last line was awesome.

I knew John Frain had it when I read his. My eyes read over "cereal killer" - only on the second read did I get that (even though that was my Halloween costume - my department dressed as 'puns'). I did catch all the cereal references, though, and laughed in wonder with the snap crackle thing.

Loved Kimber's and Michael Seese's too - also The Doorman's (mother is in on the killing of her kids...yucky but great twist). Really just too much talent here to compete - which is of course exactly why it's so necessary to give it a shot anyway.

As always, thanks for hosting, Janet, and for the mention.

Donnaeve said...

Interesting, Megan V. I guess you never know - maybe it seems predictable to me b/c I knew what would happen. Again, IDK. I don't know much this morning being Monday and all.

Julie - yeah, she's not been on FB either. Last I saw she had a concussion. I think she was back in the hospital.

BJ Muntain said...

Great job, John, mentionables, and unmentionables!

Re: The Doorman's entry: Yes, that's what I got from it. After getting a million-dollar payout for the death of baby #1 (and we don't know if that was intentional or not), she's choosing another bad sitter to get her another insurance payout.

Donnaeve said...

Update on Julia - I stand corrected. I'm not sure how I missed her posts - but there are a few out there, and she seems fine!

Okay, I'm well over my limits here, so off I go to work on the WIP!

Have a gr8 day all!

Brigid said...

Forgot to add—the DuSable kids are currently using the hashtags #saveourlibrary and #cantSHUSHthis

Can't. Shush. This. I am cracking up at my desk.

Nate Wilson said...

As always, I'm overwhelmed by the cleverness and skill throughout all the entries, especially the finalists. Congratulations, John. A well-deserved win.

Anonymous said...

I just ordered the ultimate writing guide. Fame and riches are sure to follow.

Snoopy knows how it's done!

I wanted to say how much I appreciate y'all.

Kim English said...

Congrats to John-- patting myself on the back for pegging his entry as the winner. As always, a stellar group.

Christina Seine said...

What an awesomely hilarious story John! Well done! =D

Kate Larkindale said...

Congratulations, John! And to all the finalists. It was another great bunch of stories.

nightsmusic said...

Oh, John! You made me laugh out loud. Loved it.

I'll be reading through them all this week. Busy, busy and last night, it took four hours just to get the lights on the tree. Long story, same story every Christmas. I'm ready not to have a tree anymore. Tonight, WE tackle the ornaments. I'd rather it was I tackle the ornaments, but no such luck. And then gone three different nights before Sunday.

I'm really beginning to hate this time of year. Hopefully, after Christmas, I can think enough to participate again.

Congrats to all! Whether you made the short, long or entered list, you're a winner :)

Unknown said...

Great story John. Congratulations and cherrio, back to my WIP.

Colin Smith said...

nightsmusic: We had the complete opposite experience this year. The fastest we've ever gone from Tree Farm to tree lit up in the corner. At the risk of invoking the ire of QOTKU by being so off-topic, here are some things we did differently:

1) Carry the tree in the car, not tied to the top. Yes, we have a big Excursion (with a healthy new engine!--see this blog about 6 months ago), so we can put the back seat down and get the tree in that way. No fussing with rope. Just pull the thing out onto the porch.

2) Put the stand on while it's lying on the porch. I was surprised at how close to straight I managed to get it when I didn't have to worry about balancing it in the stand.

3) Stand the tree in the middle of the room to put the lights on. Easy to get around. Then, when done, you can slide the tree into the corner.

I don't know whether any of the above would apply to you. Perhaps the easiest method would be to do what we did growing up in the UK: use an artificial tree. I liked our tree, and never felt I was missing out not having a real one. It was about 6 feet tall with metal branches wrapped in silver tinsel, with silver, white, and blue tinsel strands from each branch. It looked quite lovely once we put the lights on it. Ahhh... fond fond memories... :D

OK, sorry... back to my Post-Carkoon Slush Pile Purgatory... *sigh*

Marie McKay said...

Congratulations, John, such a great entry! Congrats also to finalists and mentionables. The standard of writing here is so good (and a little intimidating!)

nightsmusic said...

Colin, would that it was so easy. We have the 3/4 ton pick up with the extended bed, we have the stand that is positional eight ways from Sunday, we have the wide front door to bring it through. What we do not have is a meeting of the minds when it comes to bald/empty spots on the tree and where the lights should go to fix said spot. I put the lights on, he takes them off. He puts them on, I say fine, he rearranges them until he can't stand it, then takes them off and starts again. By this time, I'm livid, he's angry and it's our annual 'Christmas is here and it's knock-down/drag-out time again' argument. So tonight, it's the ornament's turn. It was just easier when I wasn't working and I'd decorate it during the day when he wasn't home.

One of these days, I'm going to write a story about the tree that kills the homeowners because it can no longer stand the arguing.

Colin Smith said...

nightsmusic: I'm so sorry. There I do have the advantage on you. I have a FirstBorn who is willing and happy to string the lights on the tree and outside the house every year. My wife and I are happy not to have to do it (especially me--it was my job until FirstBorn took over). Of course, FirstBorn keeps talking about pursuing her dreams and moving out which, of course, won't do at all, since she also makes the most amazing desserts from scratch. It's her birthday tomorrow, and she's making her own birthday cake because no-one else would do it as well. And she's absolutely right--even my wife (who is herself an incredible cook) admits as much.

And speaking of celebrations, today wifey and I are celebrating 24 glorious years of marital bliss. We're taking FirstBorn and OnlySon to see "Spectre" and then tonight we're going out for dinner on our ownsome. :D

OK, now I've strayed so far off topic, I'll have to start writing in italics...

Colin Smith said...

And now for something completely different... a man who speaks in anagrams.

Kregger said...

Hats off to everybody, especially to John Frain.
The first two on the short list creeped me out so much (which I loved) it was a pleasure to read John's.
Everyone please keep up the good work.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Donnaeve, thanks for mentioning Julia. I felt like I hadn't seen her 'round these parts either, and was trying not to be a worrying weirdo about it....

Also, my fellow Reiders, just wanted to update you that I heard back on my full, and it was a very, very nice rejection. Onward and upwards! No news on other assorted submissions (queries for this novel, and short stories).

What I can tell you that's new, however, is my beloved Doberman, Elka, no longer seems to think automatic doors are terrible witchcraft. We just went to Tractor Supply for dog food, and she acted as though they'd never in her life bothered her.

John Frain said...

Oh, you guys are cracking me up.

Janet, I can't thank you enough for hosting these and helping me (and everyone else) become better at the craft.

I needed comic relief after seeing my bloody son on Friday. Odd but refreshing to see him frightened. Wish it would last longer, but I know it won't.

So many people had great entries, I feel fortunate. As an addendum, there were a couple pieces that landed on the cutting room floor, neither of them Count Chocula unfortunately. The detective's name was Mike because I so badly wanted to get in a bit with Mikey and giving the killer Life. And that, of course, spoons right into missing your Lucky Charm. Alas, I couldn't make Life work with the word count.

I will say this: doing research was delicious. If Janet wants to find a way to include chocolate chip cookie among the feed words next time, she'll get no argument from me. Inspiration comes in many forms!

CED said...

Congrats to all the winners and mentions. Great work as usual.

I thought it interesting that others struggled with these words; I did too. My entry was my most-revised piece for one of these contests, and it still was far from what I wanted it to be.

It's rough to face your limitations as a writer: to rewrite, deconstruct and reconstruct, look to a thesaurus for inspiration, reorder and re-reorder, and at the end of it all, to have something only marginally better than what you started with but still light-years from the image in your mind.

Oh well. That's why these contests are great. They force me to face my limitations. Eventually I'll break through them. I have a thick skull, so when I spend time hitting my head against the wall, the wall's going to take some damage.

Thanks again, Janet, for running these contests and for all the extra work you do to help us.

John Frain said...


I did expect the jump at the end of your story. A few months ago, I wouldn't have expected it, so I think it's a product of participating in these contests that puts my mind there so quickly.

But your Eureka moment on your run is spot on. Lead your reader down the path and pull out the rug instead of giving them the ending they suspect.

That said, I don't think your new ending captures it. Which is why this is SO difficult to do in a hundred words. I don't know that I would have read it as tears of gratitude had you not added that in your note. I'm not a good gauge either though, since I miss the nuances in many of these stories until someone points them out. I lead the league in "Ohhhhhh, now I see" head nods after the Monday blog entry.

I don't know how you'd do it, but I think she needs to save him at the end to get the right reversal. But then you're at 138 words and cursing yourself and you're up till 3 in the morning and ... oh wait, that's me, never mind.

Karen McCoy said...

Yay John Frain! Beautiful entries. I had to sit this one out to celebrate my mother's birthday on Frank Sinatra's 100th. A great time was had!

french sojourn said...

Congrats John, yours was magically delicious!

Loved this real tough set of prompts, great job everyone. Gabby, great to see your nailed it. See the waters fine, just watch for dorsal's.

Thanks again for hosting these FF blasts.
Cheers all;

nightsmusic said...

Jennifer, my red female fears nothing but wet feet. My blue male on the other hand, at times fears his own farts.

Colin, do NOT let that child move! DD1 (dear daughter #1) used to do all of this for us. Alas, she is married and gone and DD2 is living with her significant other and had no interest in helping at the time. Apparently, my husband and I cannot work together at anything short of paying jobs.

That was my third. Over and out!

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Congratulations John. Wonderful entry. I'm glad your need for comic relief won out. Must have been the lucky charm.

I wasn't able to read all the entries, too much work all of a sudden. Thank you Janet for hosting these contests. I wrote three then rewrote the last several times.

Colin, happy anniversary.

Cindy C said...

Congratulations to John--yours crack(l)ed me up! And congrats to everyone mentioned. I loved all the Christmas-themed entries!

Michael Seese said...

A lot of humor in this week's short list. John's WAS a great entry.

And I'm SO pleased y'all picked up on the acrostic.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations John! Your entry had me eating Fruit Loops right out of the box, no bowl or spoon for me! Hilarious. :)

Congrats to all those mentioned, well done.

Donnaeve said...

Hey John! Pausing before we eat dinner to catch up on the comments, and I wanted to reply to yours - and just say, Lordy, do I know what you mean. (about the endings)

I think I would have worked my words a bit differently to lead ya'll to the gratitude with "Or her tears," by giving you more of a twist - but who can say at this point? Likely I would have stepped off into WTF land like I did for some with my Thanksgiving tribute. But. If I only had 38 more words. Ha! Funny, I do it too.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, John! Your entry made me laugh and that was welcome. Sure hope your son recovers quickly with no ill effects to his notions of being indestructible (been there with copious bleeding of children's head wounds).

Colin, Happy Anniversary to you and your wife!

I'm relieved to hear others found these words difficult and it wasn't just me. This was a weekend of constant interruptions and distractions (good ones!) and this is the first time I didn't even read all the other entries. Not sure I made it through more than a handful, no fault of the writing. Unsurprisingly, the story in my head didn't quite make the transition to the page this time. It's all a learning process and I'm grateful for the opportunity to play among all this talent. Quite motivating.

John Frain said...


Merry Anniversary. Still two more hours for fireworks. Or, short of that, dessert.

Hank, that comment was magically delicious. Gold star for you.

Colin Smith said...

Thanks Angie, kd, and John! :)

S.D.King said...

John - so wonderful! Loved it!

Lance said...

Great, John. Thank you, Ms. Reid.

Stephen G Parks said...

For the first time in forever I checked out all the brands in the cereal section of the grocery store today. I think we all know who's fault that is... Congratulations, John and everyone who participated.

EDITED to replace story with store

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Next FF contest, I'm in.
Today simply trying to get the last word.

Melissa Guernsey said...

Congrats to John and all!!!Love the imaginations around here...

-- said...

Congrats, John! And to everyone else who participated.
Janet, thank you for hosting this and for your feedback.
It was my first foray into FF. Lots of fun. :)

Panda in Chief said...

Ceareal killer! Ha ha! Well done!