Monday, September 04, 2017

Snappsy the Alligator did NOT ask to be in this flash fiction contest! FINAL

Because I was away on Saturday and Sunday morning, the comments were open for a longer window than the contest actually ran.  Fortunately for most of you that wasn't a problem, but there were two entries dq'ed for time (sorry guyz!)
Angel Rodrigues
Karen McCoy

You were up to your usual good writing tricks this weekend as well. It used to be that almost every entry that was a complete story made the finalist list.  Now, too many of you have upped your game, and some really good work is not making the cut. It's amazing, and bittersweet. Herewith the results:

The Steve Forti Award for Awesome Use of Prompt Words
Nate Wilson   

The start of a story (or novel) that I'd be too chicken to read
Madeline Mora-Summonte   

Special recognition for a masterful turn of phrase
EM Goldsmith
Dear food  
Special recognition for a great line
Kerry Bernard
Convicted of practicing science in the presence of minors  

Not quite a story but a great start to one
Marie McKay  

Not quite a story but the writing is superlative
Lisa Bodenheim

This entry cracked me up even as it gave me the heebie jeebies
Claire Bobrow  

Not quite a story but egad, what great imagery
Steph Ellis  

Here are the stories that made the long list:
Knock, knock.
"Come in."
Narrator strutted inside, feathers preened to perfection. "Thanks for asking me to dinner, Snappsy."
Snappsy smiled. "You put this gator in a book and made me famous. Dinner is the least I can do. I'm even veering from my P diet."
"Great! Always trust your narrator. We know what makes a story work. So, what letter does dinner start with?"
"C." Snappsy whipped off his tie and trussed her up.
"Never trust your main character. We often take over the story. Ironic, isn't it?" He plucked her feathers. "I'll eat her. I'll eat her not."
Megan V
“Lousy hippies.” Gary’s chew pings against the tin bucket.
“Environmentalists, dear,” I say.
“Don’t start with that PC bullshit Annie.” He runs a cloth over the barrel of his two gauge. “Damn lefties. If they think they can drive me out of my own home over some dumb crocodile, they’ve got another thing coming.”
“Gator,” I say.
“Whatever. If you ask—”
“Gator!” I exclaim.
Too late.
Jaws snap.
Gary screams.
The two gauge flies.
“Annie! Annie, get the gun!” he shouts.
I glance at the fallen weapon, shake my head.
Better not risk it.
I might hit the gator.
I know it’s odd to say in the bathroom so long, but it’s my only chance for peace. And, it’s my chance for a therapy session.
The spider under the sink listens. It doesn’t say anything, just listens, and ties threads together, making the best of its environs.
“Are you done yet?” my wife asks.
We talk about her, the spider, and I. My wife tells me I spend too much time in there, talking to myself. When I finally emerge and she sees the web, she snaps and runs for the fumigator.
Now, I feel so very alone.
Mallory Love
The guy in the corner booth stared, trying to place me. Once upon a time, I used to imagine this scenario. A drama major with a dream, I moved to Hollywood with fame in mind: red carpets, hobnobbing with celebrities, being a paparazzi darling. But one messy confrontation with an infamous director gone awry sent me seeking refuge in Purgatory, Alaska, hiding in a local bar.
The guy approached. Ten minutes later, I was in the back of a squad car.
Snapping the mugshot, the cop smirked. "Front page of tomorrow's news. Smile. You're going to be famous." Fucking irony.
Kathy Joyce
The detective stroked his beard. “Iron left plugged in.”
“She's sloppy, leaves it all the time, sir.”
“Have to ask. What's your tie-in to all this?”
“Pool boy, sir.”
The detective pointed out the window." Snapdragons flattened, something was dragged over there.”
“Gator, sir. Chased it off this morning.”
“Guess we'll have to see what the camera shows.”
“No cameras, sir.”
“Just installed. She told the company she needed to nab someone. ‘Guilty, in the act,’ she said. By the way, what's your name? I can't put ‘pool boy’ in my report.”
“Gil, sir. Gil Indiac.”
“Middle initial?”
“T, sir.”
Where’s your nanna?”
“She’s napping. Why?”
“She said she needed some muscle and asked for a gat or a tire iron. Tire iron’s too heavy, so I got her this Beretta Pico .380.”
“Nanna said gat?”
“Yeah, she must love old movies.
“God, don’t give her a gun; she’s dangerous! We had to take her license and car away because she drinks.”
“Hey, cutie, is that my heater?”
“Nanna, you don’t know how…”
“I ain’t no Dumb Dora.” She grabbed the gun. “It’s puny, but it’ll do.”
She pointed it at her grandson. “Now, sonny, about my car and license…”
Myrna Foster
I had a job interview in 20 minutes, but when I opened my front door, an alligator waited. I slammed the door.
Safe inside, I grabbed my cast iron skillet and hurried out the back, only to find another gator.
It didn’t snap at me, so I booped it on the snoot and ran. More alligators peeled away from my car. They surrounded me.
“Stop!” yelled a woman in a suit and tie. “Are you Maeve Green?
“Apologize to Allie for hitting her.”
I apologized—so many questions I wanted to ask.
“Excellent.” The woman smiled. “You’re hired.”
Just Jan
“How much are the boots in the window?” I asked.
“Mighty fine, aren’t they?” The old woman untied her apron. “But they’re not for sale. They’re the last thing Walter ever did.”
“I’ve never seen anything like them. Name a price.”
She pulled another pair from under the counter. “Now these are magnificent. Bull gator. The one that snapped Walter’s back.”
I caressed the leather, admiring the fine stitchwork. “I’m more interested in the boots Walter made.”
She shook her iron-grey curls. “Walter didn’t create them, I did. Still, he makes a nice pair of boots, doesn’t he?”
Here are the five finalists
D Willadsen
The whiskey went down as warm as the setting sun, comforting. The river stones far below turned pink and gold.
The highlight reel played in his mind, on and off the gridiron.
Pee Wee football.
The Gator Bowl, tied---a bad snap, a worse sack, a heartbreaking loss.
The gold band on her slim finger.
Knocked around, loving the game. Nickname: “Astaire” for his sure, nimble feet.
The tiny fingers of his baby girl, now grown.
Last week: “It’s CTE.” His wife’s face.
He buried the flask---it had to look right---stepped to the edge, and “slipped.”
I had to look up CTE to get the full impact of the story.  It makes sense even if you don't know what CTE is, but when you do,  it elevates the story to heart-breaking. And of course, very topical.

Good writing makes you feel something and this absolutely does.  

Melanie Sue Bowles
“What’s she doing?” asked Musette.
“Staring out the window.” Muse-eminent shrugged. “They do that a lot.”
“Let’s snap her out of it.”
Muse-eminent shook her head, displacing glitter.
“Now she’s scrubbing baseboards? Can’t we tie her to the chair.”
“Ironically, they just whimper. Best to leave them alone.”
Both muses followed as Wanna-be-Creative wandered into the garage. They watched her snap on the light above the utility sink then grasp a pair of clippers.
“Unless,” Muse-eminent hollered, “procrastination goes rogue! Quick! Give her inspiration!
Too late. The blades whirred, mauling Wanna-be-Creative’s hair like a chomping alligator.
Muse-eminent’s eyes rolled. Writers.
This just cracked me up completely. Musette and Muse-eminent are brilliant character descriptions. And how true this is! In fact, I'm looking at my garden shears and my too-long hair right now!  


John Davis (manuscript) Frain
Principal Newton understood this environment. “Your new teacher starts Monday. Grief counselors are available. You students in AP Physics had a special bond with Mr. Schrödinger.”
Albert, ever the instigator, raised a hand. “We just saw Schrödinger walking the hallway.”
“Toward the basketball court where Mrs. Schrödinger coaches?”
“Your instructor, shall we say, combined elements with my assistant. Mrs. Schrödinger walked in on the experiment.”
“I understand the gravity of the situation,” Albert snapped.
Newton remained patient. “I’m relatively sure you don’t. When you saw Mr. Schrödinger walking? He was alive, and yet … he was a dead man.”
I'm a sucker for science and math jokes and this is an artful example of what I love. It's also a complete story, which is no small feat in these few words.

I love that it requires reader participation. You have to know who Schrödinger, Newton, Einstein, and Schrödinger's cat are to get the joke.

 And it took me three reads to see past the science joke to the real joke.
 This is really terrific.  


Locks clicked, iron creaked, and the alligator ate her.
Snap outrage.
Eaten?!? In a zoo??
Bars added, ties tightened, but admissions remained down.
Tones changed.
They'd never snack in the gator area.
They'd never sit so close.
In short sleeves too.
Her legs exposed.
Not that it was her fault. Of course.
Utmost surprise it hadn't happened earlier. They're alligators after all.
Her hairdresser interviewed. She always asked for 47 brushstrokes. The populous agreed. A dozen too many.
Months passed. The gator kept the fault. She got the blame.
Plus, she was still dead. 
This is brilliant writing (no surprise given the writer.)  The lines with the hairdresser is what elevates this from good to sublime. And "The gator kept the fault. She got the blame." is exquisite.

This entry is a perfect 10.   

Steve Forti
Up north, to wild environs, to hunt me some bear.
Downwind to hide my scent.
Up in the tree’s where the snake attacked from.
Down the back of my pants he slithered.
Up… to no good it was, and bitey.
Down to my skivvies I stripped in a flash.
Upping exposed skin to bitier mosquitoes.
Down slashed my knife at the slimy instigator.
Up went my neck hair at growls and twigs snapping.
Down pinned the ATV’s gas pedal.
Up to here, I’ve had it, I need a new task.
Down south, to the city, to hunt me some beer.
If you look up "surprise and delight" in the writer's dictionary, there's a jpg of Steve Forti. He's either deftly playing with the prompts or doing acrobatics with form. This entry is no exception. Notice the play on beer/bear in the opening and closing lines.   Honestly, these could be the lyrics to a hilarious song. 

This used to be a lot easier. I actually had to write out a schematic for choosing the winner here. All the stories are terrific. What's the next benchmark?

If I chose twist/surprise, it would be John Davis Frain

If I chose clever form, it would be Steve Forti

If I chose illumination of something bigger than the story: it's Brig, hands down.

If I chose cracked me up: it's Melanie Sue Bowles

If I chose pulled my heartstrings: it's D. Willadsen

This is just madness now. Each of you wrote something that is certainly worth the prize. Each of you wrote something completely different.

I'm going to post this and let y'all weigh in.
And while you're reading, I'm going to do something MUCH easier: audit royalty statements.

UPDATE: I called in Julie Falatko, the author of SNAPPSY to help out. Here's what she had to say:

This was no easy task. You're right -- all five finalists are completely excellent in their own way, and, in that, very difficult to judge against each other. But, after reading each multiple times, and even reading them out loud, I have to choose D Willadsen's story about the football player as my choice for the winner. Mostly because, as you pointed out, of the feelings it evokes, but also because it is the one that made the prompt words disappear most for me (that is, I didn't read it and think, "Oh, there's the "snap!"). 

So there you have! All in all, a great choice!

D Willadsen, if you'll send me your mailing address, I'll pop Snappsy the Alligator in the mail to you.  He probably didn't ask to be in the envelope, but it was that or this;


Amy Schaefer said...

They are all excellent. But I like the quiet completeness of D Willadsen's entry.

Barbara said...

Lots of great ones here, but I'd have to go with Steve Forti for the win. You're just too clever!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I am all about beer and bear interchanges so Forti gets my nod for that. Yes, all of these are excellent efforts. Sort of ironic that the prize is a picture book because most of us should probably be kept well away from children.

Marie McKay said...

Thanks,Janet,always honoured to get a mention.
I was going for a twist in the middle. Never tried that before, so it was good fun.
I love all the stories shortlisted. I'm amazed at the talent displayed in all of them. I wouldn't know who to pick!

Kate Larkindale said...

I don't know how you'd pick. They're all so good! But I think I like Brig's the best.

Timothy Lowe said...

Frain left me speechless this week. Great stuff.

Colin Smith said...

Great entries. My vote's for Mr. Fortissimo. May the Forti be with you. :)

RosannaM said...

So I really loved them all, and went back and read them again before weighing in.

I, too, had to look up CTE and it gave the story a gut-punch so I would cast my vote for D. Willadsen

But I have to admit, I loved the symmetry and bookend contrasts of Steve Forti's bear/beer and north/south and wild environs/city.

Strong group of writers here. Congrats to all mentioned!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Thank you, Janet, for the mention. Among this crowd, it's a feat!

So many good entries. So undecided my choice.

I really liked the humor in Melanie Sue's, Steve Forti's, (and Megan V's), and after researching Schrödinger (to understand more than the cat), appreciated John Davis (ms) Frain's.

So count me undecided.

John Davis Frain said...

I have all the braggin' rights I need just hanging out with this company. I say that about this blog in general, as well as the specific entrants shortlisted.

I was at least smart enough to come to my computer in bare feet. My socks wouldn't have survived these entries.

So, pick a winner? Thank goodness I don't have that impossible task. Instead, I'm gonna write another one. This has inspired me to have a Back to School week on my blog. Thanks for the inspiration, Janet. Keep it coming.

Unknown said...

Took me another read to get the non-science joke in Frain's too. :) These are all so good. Do we have to pick one winner? Thanks for the mention, always humbled in this crowd.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Thanks for the mention, Janet!

I'm torn between D Willadsen's and Steve Forti's entries for the win.

Glad to see Just Jan's entry on the long list - it was one of my favorites.

Unknown said...

Missed Janet's question about the next benchmark. Make the finalists get their entries down to 80 words? Force them to fight it out in a word contest? Give it to the oldest? Tallest? Best mustachioed? I'm thinking pin them to the wall and throw a darts. (The stories I mean, not the actual people).

Brig said...

Thanks for the mention and the incredibly flattering commentary. It's fantastic to be on such a brilliant list. While I would love to get to know Snappsy, my vote goes to Steve Forti. His story feels like the warm jacket of a long ago ex-boyfriend. Super comfortable and warm to sit in, despite the context.

Janet Reid said...

Kathy Joyce said
I'm thinking pin them to the wall and throw a darts. (The stories I mean, not the actual people).

Where's the fun in that??
I think using mounting squares to attach people to the wall then throwing pie sounds like delicioius fun.

Plus, we have a visiting canine in the office today who volunteered for cleanup duty.

Dena Pawling said...

I was in the mountains this weekend with no internet but in a way I'm glad because these entries are amazing. I read the finalists and my head was going up down up down up down when reading Steve Forti's entry, plus I loved the bookend effect so I vote for Steve because it's amazing and my head nodded yes.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Gadzooks...! A finalist. I'm more than honored. But I must confess, my entry is nonfiction. I was having a lousy day of not writing. And that part about the clippers? Yeah. An unfortunate truth. (Put down the shears, Janet). :-)

I loved so many entries (as always) but Steve gets my vote.

By the way, I'm all for everyone throwing pies at me. And dogs!

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I didn't mean "throw dogs at me"... I meant, DOGS!

Kitty said...

Holy cow, I made the semi-finals? As to a winner, I say award all 5.

Craig F said...

I would have to pick D Willadsen

, did you mean a twelve gauge? There was once a 2 gauge but a normal human could not aim and shoot one. They were called punt guns because they were mounted in boats.

Steve Forti said...

Wow, honored to be among the finalists. Awesome. Lots of great entries, as always. Thank you for all the kind comments. Brig, not sure what that means, but it's touching. And I'm all for getting pied. Can I request vanilla cream?

Just Jan said...

Janet, I do not envy you tonight! Congratulations to all the finalists--you certainly deserve the honor (and Snappsy).

Thank you to Madeline for your kind words and to Janet for finding my entry entertaining enough for the long list.

Can't wait to see who becomes the chosen one!

Colin Smith said...

FirstBorn is back at UNC-G today, but if you'd like to place orders for tasty pies, I'm sure she'll be willing to cater the event. All proceeds will go to her college fund, of course... ;)

french sojourn said...

I gotta say John Davis Frain for the win big time....and Scarlett I suggest Fort Scott Purina Chow in Kansas for the best prices for Dragon Kibble chow.

I'm out.

Unknown said...

Oh wow...I thought everyone's entries were great. I loved John Davis Frain's entry, it's hilarious. And D Willadsen's story tore at my heartstrings, even before I looked up CTE.

Janet, I don't envy you having to pick the winner...

D Schick said...

All the entries were unusually strong this go-round. Still, will have to go with D Willadsen. Gem of a story with a gut-punch ending.

Mr. Razir said...

I feel that D Willadsen's entry shows a knowledge of writing and emotional presence that makes it my top entry for the contest. There were many others that were good, as they were all finalists, but I feel that D Willadsen's entry really punctuates the emotional impact suffered by the characters extremely well especially with as limited a word count.

Brig said...

Yeah sorry Steve, I could have lengthened the time between waking and typing a little longer. I just felt warm and happy from reading yours, which didn't really make sense when I considered the context of the story.

Megan V said...

D Willadsen is my number 1 this week. Beautiful.

dsw said...

These are such fun to read, and to do, and as a new, aspiring writer, I always learn so much, amazed at what people can do in only a hundred words. I'm honored to even be mentioned among such august, kick-ass writers!

Jen said...

These were amazing finalists! I love me a surprise ending, so I'd pick John FTW. :)

Lennon Faris said...

Oh man these were all fantastic. John's I can't help but like because it is so darn nerdy. I wish I were brilliant enough to understand Brig's (and I think she deserves a metal for the most strangely apt description of another entry). Melanie's I love because you took an awful 'real' day and turned it into highly amusing writing! D Willadsen, I am in awe that you set the tone from the very first few words.

I am definitely in on the pie throwing. If it's peanut butter pie, think anyone will notice if I slip my face in there?

Lennon Faris said...

Oh, and I somehow forgot to (definitively) mention Steve's. That was brilliant, friend. I think I get Brig's description of it.

Cheers to all of you who entered, folks. Some seriously good writing.

Erik said...

There's some great work here! But I definitely have to give the nod to D Willadsen this week.

Brig said...

I don't know if it's a compliment to you that you understood my crazy analogy Lennon, but thanks.

And just for your knowledge, the story's a reflection on rape culture. The gator is a rapist.

Karen McCoy said...

Lots of great finalists! For me, it's between Melanie Sue Bowles and John Davis Frain.

CynthiaMc said...

Good work by all.

Steve gets my vote - the structure, rhythm, and whimsy of a children's book plus beer.

Nate Wilson said...

Well done, everyone. But as the owner of a cat named Schrödinger, my vote has to go to Mr. Manuscript Frain.

Claire Bobrow said...

Great work, everyone. Finalists - you rock! I don't own a cat named Schrodinger, but I also vote for J.D. Frain.
Thanks for making me look up Schrodinger's cat, again :-)

AJ Blythe said...

Thanks to a crazy busy weekend I missed this one. Would say I'm disappointed, but having read the entries I'm quietly glad my writing wasn't shamed by such august company.

My vote is for John ms Frain. Very clever and totally cracked me up.

Barbara Etlin said...

Ha! I, too, own a cat named Schroedinger--an *electronic* one! And my vote goes to Mr. Frain.

Unknown said...

I'm sitting in a dark movie theater, watching As Good as It Gets. Toward the end, Jack Nicholson (a shut-in writer with OCD who has emerged with help from friends) says to Helen Hunt "You make me want to be a better man."

The entire theater gasps. It's the perfect compliment.

I say to Janet and Reiders, "You make me want to be a better writer." Thank you! Congrats to D Willadsen and all.

Colin Smith said...

Congrats D Willadsen!

The Contest Spreadsheet has been updated. :)

Claire Bobrow said...

Way to go D Willadsen - congrats!

Megan V said...

Congrats to D willadsen!!!awesome job.

And Craig-just saw your question in the comments and the answer is...Nope. I definitely meant 2 gauge :) I was wondering if anyone would pick up on it. I thought the use of the old duck blaster would help set the scene (I.e they're in a tin swamp skiff (the tin bucket) and add to the humor. If she could fire the damn thing there's no way she could miss either gator)

RosannaM said...

I second Kathy Joyce's entire comment above.

Mallory Love said...

Congrats D Willadsen! Well deserved. I loved your first sentence. Congrats to all the other finalists also. Brig, the subtext was so well done. John Frain, way to take science to a whole other level. Very clever. Steve Forti, great play with words, loved it. Thanks again for another fun and insightful contest.

RosannaM said...

Except I was not literally in a dark theater watching As Good As It Gets, but other than that, yep.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Congratulations, D. Willadsen. Good win!

Unknown said...

Congrats, D Willadsen! Such a sad story, but great writing.