Friday, June 22, 2018

Darius the Great Flash Fiction contest

Long time blog readers may remember Adib Khorram, a regular commenter and contest entrant from several years back.

If you're wondering what happened to him, he was busy writing a novel.

I managed to steal an Advance Review Copy. I shimmied up the exterior drainpipe, lowered myself through the chimney and found a copy cleverly concealed on a bookshelf in his agent's pied a terre. I started reading in the paddy wagon.

Let's just say, I'm not surprised Adib wrote a great book, not surprised at all. But I'm totally in awe of his story telling skills, his command of craft, and how real yet entertaining this book is. In other words, this is a total sox knocker for 2018. I'm not alone in my opinion: Darius the Great is Not Okay was also a BuzzBook pick at BEA this year. That's a pretty singular honor: only five or six books are chosen.

It goes on sale in August, but I'm glad to start talking about it early AND give away this purloined ARC to the winner of the flash fiction contest this weekend

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:

Steve Forti must also incorporate this prompt word: infusion

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: tea/teal is ok, but dad/dead 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. (For example "This book sounds great!")

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: 6:43am, Saturday, June 23, 2018

Contest closes: 9am, Sunday, June 24, 2018

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. sorry. Too late! Contest closed.


Steve Forti said...

>>Hey pendejo. U must b loco, vato. Who u think u are?
New phone. Who dis?
>>U got huevos, holmes. But u some weak whitebread, I bet.
I don't know what you want, but eat a duck.
>>U wanna fight? Luchemos. I'll show u pain.
>>Si o n
Go to hell.
>>I'll send u there, vato. U'll regreat messing wit my Miranda.
Wait, who?
>>Don't play dumb. Miranda. Mi amor.
I don't know any Miranda, dude.
>>Lo siento. Wrong number.

Timothy Lowe said...

They traveled deep in the desert, to the mouth of a cave known for magic words. But they misread the myth. Luckily, they brought their own linguistic Ali Baba.

“Dibs on the magic words!”

“I should advise you, that’s not how it works.”

“Shut up, Forti! Ransack some other cave!”

“Yeah, we’re stealing the words!”

“Great,” said Forti. Thieves. What could you do?

They tried everything. Crowbars. Acetylene torches. Nitroglycerin. Fusion bombs. Finally, exhausted, they turned to their last resort.

“Your turn.”

Striding through the smoke, Forti steeled himself and spoke the words:

“How much wood could a woodchuck chuck . . . ?”

Unknown said...

Sneers twist boyish faces. Months of dismissing me as a statue, my pole still like the water’s surface, emotions swirling defiantly below, they thought I was daydreaming. I was studying.
From their springtime teasing, I ran. There are other ponds. But today, though fish are summer-sluggish and addling jeers stir my calm cast, I stay, sensing life ripple the murky depths. The fish will come.
A dibbing line bobs against mine. He thinks it’s properly baited. Ha!
They call the great tug, “girls’ dumb luck.” As my fingers twirl around the reel, I reply, “The skill of a fisherwoman.”

Craig F said...

It was an innocent question over tea. Why? It is heard all the time, this time it struck Adib in the gut.

He could not find an answer. From his Dad he had learned humility and compassion. Those did not answer either. The rest of his world taught him eighteen kinds of hate, including the self-hate of the damaged. Those didn’t convey the right answer, either.

He searched more widely, to no avail. He headed for his ancestral homeland, Iran, a land he didn’t know. He looked at a ruined land and the little why grew to a great why.

Claire Bobrow said...

Ira noodled over the problem.
Kugel without cinnamon?
His mother’s kugel always had cinnamon.
Should he mention it, or…
maybe not.
She’d squawk like a cockatoo -
“Mama’s boy!”
A dibble plunged in the eardrum – that’s what her protest would be, allowing yet another seed of discord to sprout.
As if their life weren’t already a great jungle of misery.
No – best keep his trap shut so “The Mistake,” as his mother called her,
wouldn’t clutch her tea and moan loud enough to wake the Dead.
Or Dad, as I used to call him.
Until he complained about mother’s kugel.

Kitty said...


Y’know I’m great at crossword puzzles, right, boss?

Go on.

Well, I was waiting for the train, doing a puzzle and got really stumped. Six letters. Starts with “t.” ‘Not infusion tea.’ Then I ran into this egghead. He said, “Tisane.” He said he’s applying for a job here.


And I missed my train as I was writing tisane.

Did you get his name?

No, sir.

Egghead? I bet it was Steve Forti.

You know him?

As of this morning, Steve is our new copy director.

But, Dad, that’s MY job!

Not anymore. Steve was on time.

Steve Stubbs said...

Adib took his new book to his father about his friend Darius, who was sipping tea. His father was sipping tea, that is, not Darius.

His dad admired the book. "Congratulations, Adib."

"It's about my friend Darius."

"How is he?"

"Darius thinks he's great, but he's not OK."

"Is the book good?"

"Janet Reid says it's a sox knocker."

"I wondered why my sox blew off when you brought it in."

"When I walk into a shoe store, everybody's barefoot in five minutes. Including the sales staff."

"It's that good, eh? How'd you get to all those shoe stores?"


Barbara said...

Adib sat by his father's bedside. "I'm sorry, Dad."

Darius coughed, spitting up blood. "No matter. It's the way of kings. Sons murder their fathers. Unless we are truly great men, it is how we become kings. It was the tea, wasn't it? Poison."

Adib nodded. "Yes. But I swear by our Iranian gods, never will fratricide happen in our family line again."

Darius smiled. "Good. Now bring my grandson so that I may see him before I die."

Adib looked away, ashamed to meet his father's eyes.

"I cannot. I made a vow. I gave him the tea, too."

Brenda said...

Mustaffah—an Iranian-born Istanbul hustler—took snakes from his young son Adib and scanned the crowd for tourists. He particularly sought those intoxicated by the open sacks of cinnamon, cardamom, and tea at their feet. Bonus if they were repulsed by the wasp-covered candy that would, with luck, comprise Adib’s lunch.
The snakes quickly encircled an elderly American neck. Ostensibly, she would pay for a photo-op but, in reality, she would pay to be snake-free.
“Great. I always wanted a snake.”
Adib giggled while his dad bartered for the return of their serpentine meal-tickets.
No Turkish Delight today.

Colin Smith said...

“An ogre ate my homework.” Darin’s face was so serious I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, so I ran with it. Said that was too bad. I blew it off.

But the next day: “A dragon burned my assignment.” Again with the straight face. This time I cautioned him. A teaching moment about lying.

A week later, the final straw: “A pixie stole my textbook.” Detention. He took it stoically, which had me confused a deal more. I took Darin aside.

The truth: “I can’t read.”

“Why the stories?”

“No-one’s believed me before, so one lie’s good as another.”

C. Dan Castro said...

“God is great!” Yelled in Arabic before the satellite feed died. The Iranian had used intermediaries. And escaped.
“Dad, Mr. Sukarno left a note.” I never could hear the doorbell.
“He’s here?”
“Had to run.” My son’s almost my height. And less awkward by the day. We smiled.
He ambled downstairs, and I unfolded the note. Spied the word “Adib.” Teacher, in Indonesian. I didn’t read the rest.
Sukarno had quipped Adib would stand for “All Dead In Bali.” God, my entire network.
“I’ll get it!”
I hadn’t heard the doorbell.
It was too late for friendly visitors.

LynnRodz said...

I ran.

I ran away from terror, prejudice, violence, and a sure death.

I ran to a great nation that teaches tolerance, acceptance, and freedom.

I ran tired, hungry, and cold because I was told when I got there I'd be happy and safe in a place where everyone belonged. Where I read I belonged.

Or so I thought.

When I arrived, I was taken from my mom.

Dad didn't make it, he died on the way here.

I was put in a cage.

Alone and scared, I now wonder why I ran.

Marie McKay said...

Adib rejected his dad's call for the twelfth time. He visualised his dad, a great talker, sitting in the scalding hot Iranian sun still drinking scalding hot tea; complaining of the heat to the neighbours who'd stopped to chat. If only it were that simple. Adib's hands shook. Was he going out of his mind?
The phone rang once more. Adib flung it to the furthest corner of the room.
Was it not he, thirteen years ago, who'd ensured the gesture was made? The man whose voice they would all miss would have his phone buried with him.

Marty Weiss said...

“I was had! I believed there was a person called the Great Oz,” said Dorothy.

“Oh, there was! I had tea with a hare who told me Oz existed,” Alice responded.

“I know that hare,” said the tortoise. “I ran a race with him and he lost, quite badly I might add.”

“It’s getting late. I think it best if we all skedaddle now and go back to our library shelves,” Mrs. Goose suggested.

“Yes. These days, the children are more interested in their Facebook, Twitter and Iphone activities. Even the young ones have forsaken us,” Aesop lamented.

Jill Warner said...

It felt like a Roman decemvir and the Spanish Inquisition had merged into one entity when I got home to face my parents’ wrath. You’d have thought it was a dibble instead of a tack I’d accidentally left on my teacher’s chair. It’s not my fault she sat on it. The lady’s bats anyway. She kept blathering on and on about meagre attributes when everyone knows that sharks prefer whiskey with a side of Godiva chocolate. Dad was beginning to crack a grin, but Mom still looked like she smelled something fishy.

Michael Seese said...

The guys with the great big guns seemed surly. I suspect it had something to do with the warhead I borrowed.

"Where bomb be?” the unibrow barked in English so broken it was beyond repair.

Apparently, I'd advertised the sale on These Iranians put the “HA!” in jihad. Still, armed only with a shovel, I was underdressed for the party.

“Let’s not get our sirwals in a bunch. I'll let you have it. Gladly. One question. Coffee or tea?"


"That's what stewardesses ask folks when they fly," I said, fingering the button and counting back from ten.

Brig said...

‘....bat-s*** crazy!’
‘....sometimes “spilling the tea” just makes a mess.’

‘Jimmy, you play a crime-fighting cactus. How did you prepare for the role?’
‘Well, it seemed greatly comparable to the presidential nominations, so I ran. Winning unfortunately delayed the release, but I hope my years in office made the movie what it is today’.

‘......acting IS art’

‘Debbie, you’re the only woman up for the inaugural gender-neutral Oscar. Who are you wearing?’
‘I like to believe I’m wearing the hopes of women everywhere’
‘Absolutely, absolutely. Get that Adib?’
‘Great, got it. So, how do you balance work and family?’

Steph Ellis said...

Dad ran, I ran, Adib ran but we couldn’t run fast enough. We raced the bombs and lost. Now none of us run. Dad and Adib no longer breathe, nor do I when the memories return. Those are my dark times when tears fall and I wish I too could sleep forever. The doctors say I am making great strides in my recovery, will soon be mobile; able to return to the shell of my home, to the race without end. I hear the starting gun fire outside, the sound of other feet pounding towards us. Like me, they lose.

KDJames said...

A glance at my watch lent an infusion of panic to adrenaline.

I ran harder.

"Don't be dead, don't be dead," I begged.

Too late, my charge's tea-stained teeth bared in a rictus, skin already cooling, sluggish blood trailing down limp flesh.

Dammit, I'd only looked away for a minute. Or twenty. I'd just wanted a doughnut. Fortification.

Fresh Hot Now!

But it seemed someone had signed me up for the failure-a-day club. This made, what, an even dozen now?

"Great," I muttered, licking glaze off ghostly fingers. "I'm never going to gain guardian angel status at this rate."

Unknown said...

Breath in ragged gasps, muscles straining, tears streaming, I ran. North, south, east, west, an ogre at every turn. Dozens of them, a dibbukim.

What did dad teach me about escape?

I’d done this too often, had little hope of him rescuing me again.

Would he really let me die?


The solution was a finger’s grasp away, I could feel it. An infusion of hope.

Death sped up, hell on a Harley.

Think. Think!

Bony fingers gripped by shoulders. Hot breath chuffed into my ear. I froze.

“Control, alt, right arrow, son. Quick, before you die again.”

Kregger said...

Dadi ransacked the settee for an infusion of tea and raspberries.

Bourbon would have tasted better.

Where am I anyway? Abu a dibi?

The next job I take had better be in a civilized country.

He peered through his telescopic sight, crosshairs on the distant target.

He keyed the mic, “One klick down range.”

“Roger,” growled his earpiece.

“This one’s for the great and almighty Allah.”

He painted the lead car with infrared. The mirrored windshield reflected the beam back at him.

“God works in mysterious ways,” he whispered.

He waited for the drone strike.

Life is short, damnation forever.

Congrats to Adib Khorram for grabbing the ring.

Will MacPhail said...

No one knows exactly how The Great Iranian Dog and Pony Show earned its moniker, mostly because the event itself has nothing to do with what the title would lead you to believe. An annual tea bazaar put on by the Catholic Women’s League.

Gertie was in charge of the tea. The guy who sold it said, “You’ll have mad adventures.”

Gertie thought he said, “Glad dentures,” which sounded good to her.

“It’s peyote.”

“Sounds Asian,” said Gertie.

At the church hall, Gertie, with her top off and standing on a table screamed, “Adib, adib adib, that’s all folks!”

Jeannette said...

In exchange for sex, the guard forgot to search me. That first year, I ran my fingers over Adib’s photograph until it was gray and worn. Now I stare at it but see nothing.

His eyes watch me, even in the darkness, as my bunkmate repeatedly slams her foot against the bed frame, making it shake and rattle. The house shook and rattled when dad threw him against the wall.

After, barefoot on blood-darkened floorboards, Adib would not look at me. His sudden, stifled cry, tiny in truth, great in memory, tears across my mind tonight. That makes 2,342 tears.

Sherin Nicole said...

“…the name?”
The corners of his eyes crinkled.
“How did you get this name? Your dad?”
“My mum.”
Each time I entered Adib’s shop we talked more, shared lives linked by heritage.
He’d emigrated from Iran, drank tea made from fresh mint leaves.
When I asked, “Teach me Farsi?” his eyes crinkled.
“Great, great,” he said.
He called me “sweetie” in the toast at my wedding.
I called him “uncle” at his daughter’s graduation.
We called his name when they stole him from his shop.
No answer.
Tears were fire in my throat.
I’d never known ICE could burn.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

No one at The Reef saw it coming. Although everyone was shocked when Forti ran away with Frain’s manuscript. Perhaps a Dib Membrane moment of obsession with John’s ghostly pale complexion? Who knows. But a great brouhaha ensued.

Smith took a shot at easing the tension by telling “dad” jokes. The Reider collective eye-roll caused a shift in the tides around Carkoon.

It finally required an infusion of murmurings and incantations from Luna, Bobrow, and Faris to restore the peace.

Kate Larkindale said...

Nobody came to Dad’s restaurant for food. They came for conversation. News from home told in whispers and gossip, chatters and lies.

I listened.

To the women clustered on one side of the counter, their veil-muffled voices still audible. To the men on the other, roaring and spitting through their beards as they sipped fragrant tea.

I slipped easily between the two sides, my fingers entwined with Adib’s. Unnoticed.

Or so I thought.

My father’s gaze found those entwined fingers.

“Your cousin has been arrested in Iran.”

I didn’t need to ask which cousin; only one held hands with men.

RosannaM said...

They added two extra Mondays per week, and scheduled daylight savings four times a year, which goes faster because they cut out July.

We’re taxed on the number of letters in our names. Dad saw it coming and named me half of a lowercase t. Calls me Plus.

I randomly open a box of food, no clue what’s inside. All packaging’s white; no labels.
Great! Pickles. I dip one into my tea, formerly known as coffee, and munch.

Why the infusion of Government Mandates?

To drive us mad, I believe.

But I know up is not down. Dad kept books.

Karen McCoy said...

The retirement community’s manufactured homes were too cardboard for him. He needed textures.

I would surprise him. A daddy-daughter day, with tea cookies. Grandma’s recipe. A mug, saying "Great Dad," unlikely to end up in next year’s garage sale like a dibble growing cobwebs.

Except he was tooling with the latter in the garden when I arrived.

“I was sure you’d sooner use your cane,” I rankled.

“It was this or physical therapy. I’ll be here for the afternoon.”

I hid the mug and the tin behind my back. Maybe textures weren’t mine to give after all.

Scott G said...

The tea leaves told me to face my greatest fear, so I brewed coffee with fresh grounds as a second opinion.

Damn. I have to do it.

The fortune teller told me the same thing last week. Took one look at my palm and started reading my Miranda rights.

Follow the signs. Slay the monster. Vanquish the foe. Eliminate a lifetime of evil. I can't just dip my toe. A dibble here. A dabble there. I have to go all in.

Put this pistol to his temple. Not mine.

I called him up. “Hey Dad, you free for dinner tonight?”

Brigid said...

"Make America great again!" Dad crows with the TV. "Beat Iran and those goddamned Reds once and for all!"

"Yes, Baba." I pour his medicine.

"I like this president. Much better than Carter. This one does stuff."

"Who're you?" he asks again.

"Ashraf, Baba."

"What am I watching?"

"An ad, I believe."

"What for?"

A country that doesn't want you.

"The Tea Party."

"My wife likes tea parties. Have you met her?"

“Yes, before she was deported,” I mutter, more at Fox than him. “Here, Baba, take your medicine."

“It tastes like cherry!” he exclaims. “They don’t have cherry back home. America’s great.”

Unknown said...

“I need a bad idea,” I ranted at the screen. That’s how it all began. A FB post, amidst tears, snot, some bourbon. I’ve done great things in my 32 years, but the only thing mother gives me credit for now, is the affair. Mother is an artist, and I am her Dadaistic masterpiece, she says-sexually subversive spawn. A dibble of holes to her self righteous head feels a tad extreme. Sigh. I’ll name the baby after her instead. #mothersanddaughters

John Davis Frain said...

“Great work,” Captain said. “Read her Miranda, dude.”

My eyebrows rose. “For ‘massive red orb?’ I don’t think it’s even a misdemeanor.”

Cap’n puffed her chest out. “Just like a kid punishing small animals in the backyard.”

I side-eyed her. “You’re saying overwriting leads to … murder?”

She threw her arms up. “Of your darlings, yes! Real-life murder? Hopefully that’s evadible.”

“So, I should…?”

“Okay, cuff her instead.”

“Then, how will she fix her manuscript?”

Cap’n grew a delightful grin. “Dawwww. So conniving, Sarge. Make her edit! Worst. Punishment. Ever.”

Another day in the life of the Grammar Police.


RKeelan said...

We both stole.

I ran. He hid.

His half went to a home for his dad. I bought a Porsche.

The police caught up with me. I talked.

He went to jail. I walked.

His dad lost the house. I started drinking.

I put his dad up at my place. A meagre attempt at contrition.

His dad says it should be me in jail instead of his son.

I crashed my car. When the flames started, I didn’t crawl away.

It’s not breaking the law that breaks you. It’s the harm you do along the way.

Amy Johnson said...

Great Scot!” exclaimed Sir Abbott Costello, International G.O.A.T. Awards Emcee.

“Steve, actually.”

“Not the bagpiper?”

“Nope. Steve: Flash—”

“Fastest superhero?”


“The truth, please.” Someone approached. “Who’s coming?”

“No, he’s by the TARDIS.”

Steve was surprised when the bearded man introduced himself. “Father Abraham: Dad.”

Then Julia Child. “The French Chef!”

“These days I’m specializing in fusion.”

“Confusion, indeed!” cried Sir Abbott Costello.

Steve tried to explain. “It’s not that bad…I…Before, she cooked French…”

“Don’t bother,” a woman whispered into Steve’s ear. “I ran into him earlier. Like talking to a nurikabe.” She sipped her sweet tea. “Julie: Vocabulary.”

Just Jan said...

For dad, I buy tea every Tuesday at the market.
It's great, our little tradition.
I drink mine piping hot, the way he taught me,
While his grows cold.

I talk with him, sometimes for hours,
Of things I'd like to accomplish,
Trips I want to take.
He listens with unwavering attention.

I ran into my sister today
Coming home from the cemetery she visits weekly.
She wonders how I'm doing
Now that I'm all alone.

Everything I do, I say,
Is for Daddy.
And I go home and tell him all about it.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Minutes left to enter a beginning and end-of story contest.
The words: Iran, Adib, tea, dad, great.
Some easy some difficult, I can do this.
Behind me another voice in the room, TV, spitting news as vile as acid. Who are we? All I had to do was think away from the news.
The words should have been tears, heartbreak, despair, fear, welcome.
Wait, this is just a contest, not a real test. But it won’t stop.
Ten minutes, f*** an edit.
This is not a story, it’s a nightmare.
I lose.
We lose.