Friday, April 05, 2019

The Clutch Your Pearls Flash Fiction Contest

Yesterday's comment column provided us all with a Julie Weathers story that really made me laugh. One phrase in particular leaped out at me and I thought "Hey, that's a writing contest prompt!"

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Make use of this prompt:
If she'd had pearls, she would have been clutching them.
The use is up to you.

Clarification: The exact words, in order, is not a requirement in this contest. This is a suggestion for theme.

(There is no Steve Forti is My Nemesis component this week. I'm still licking my wounds from my last defeat)

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.

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 April 6, 7:10am

Contest closes: Sunday April 7, 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! 
Ease up on the clutch, and proceed! (GO!) 

Sorry, contest has closed.


french sojourn said...

“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.”


“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.

Steve Forti said...

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?”

Jennifer Mugrage said...

If she’d had pearls, she would have been clutching them.
But she was a knitter, not a vocation that lends itself to jewels. With her materials expenses, their cost was prohibitive.

She should have known there was something off about this chit who claimed to be a fellow knitter. She’d tried not to judge, but the other’s look was far too glam. And then the girl displayed the monstrosity that was her latest project. No ribs, no moss stitch, no stockingette. Just one horrid, springy mass of garter.

“You mean,” she gasped, clutching her needles, “You’ve never learned to purl?”

C. Dan Castro said...

I hate Madison Avenue. “Gimme the worst first, kid.”

“For a tiny price and tinier sand grains, Moe Lusk will vomit you pearls!”

“It’s Lutz.”

“It’s a play on—”

“Mollusk, right. Look, we need the store’s name.”

“Okay, Moe. An older woman. Surrounded by Freddy, Jason, and Jaws.”

“The…Bond villain?”

“They dismember her! Voice-over: if she had pearls, she would have been clutching them. Subtitle: Clutchley’s Jewelry.”

“The shark? On land?!!”

“OR! Hire Ron Perlman. Says we won’t give you hell, boy. No anarchy, son. Just let me be your…Pearls…Man.”




“Okay, kid, call Ron’s agent.”

Megan V said...

Gloved hands, filtered masks
Focused on an arduous task
On the pearl caught inside her shell
Must crack her open to make her well
Cut out the growth, take it away
Nothing more that I can say
Clutching, clinging to the phone
Fingers crossed that she’ll come home

Sheri M said...

If she'd had her pearls on, she would have been clutching them. She hadn’t worn them since her wedding day when she was as willowy as her ex-husband’s soon-to-be trophy wife.
“Wait…” she said, “I want to see what they look like one last time before you give them to…her.”
The weight of the perfectly matched string skimmed her collarbones as she held the two edges of the clasp an inch apart.
“Wait…I need to see them in better light.”
“Okay, I’m done,” she sighed and dropped them into her automatic flush toilet.

Mike Hays said...

A beagle and a tabby lounged on the floor.
“You rented these for your author photo?” Miles asked.
Mildred scratched the cat’s ears. “Aren’t they the cutest?”
Mildred shrugged.
“Thank God you didn’t hire a baby, too.”
Mildred’s eyes flashed.
“Don't even think it.” Miles pointed at the pair. ”What are we supposed to do with these?”
“Play, I guess. They aren’t due until morning.”
The printer spit out the photo as Miles tried to reconcile the behavior to the motivation.
“Ahh, that animal-lover agent again,” he deduced. “Trying to kiss up?”
Mildred’s fingers shot to her neckline. “Moi?”

Claire Bobrow said...

If she’d had different parents, they would have taught her better.
If she’d paid attention at church, none of this would have happened.
If she’d gone to the right school, she would have known what to do.
If she’d “needed to wash her hair,” things might have turned out differently.
If she’d had pearls, she would have been clutching them.

But she didn’t.

So she cast herself before the swine
and brought him home -

instead of the guy.
He was nice enough,
but after a first date at an animal rescue shelter with a miniature pig?
No contest.

#1texasgirl said...

It was time. The doors were thrown wide, the music had swelled. The altar was soft in candlelight and orchids. The pews marked with silken bows, the aisle lined in pure white. A dozen bridesmaids escorted in place.

The preacher lifts his hands; the man beside him smiles. The flower girls lead the way, picture perfect. Everyone stands and turns toward her. A collective gasp fills the room. She looks down. If she’d had pearls, she would be clutching them. They would be all she wore.


She awakens, covers her face, sobs. She knows what she has to do.

Colin Smith said...

It wasn’t the hair on his jacket. The strands matched her own. Nor the late nights at the office. She found him there alone more than once.

It was the little things. The indifference. The apathy. As if someone was feeding off his store of affection. And it wasn’t her.

It was Molly. His cousin. Her renewed visits. The smile they shared.

All it took was one confrontation. With fire in her eyes, Anna pulled Molly into the bathroom. Molly knew if she’d had pearls, she would have been clutching them.

Glad of her gender, Molly left and never returned.

shanepatrickwrites said...

Sally saw a woman holding a child to her chest. If she’d had Pearl’s, she would have been clutching them, too, but she’d lost the children during the blast. At least she thought she had, maybe it was after. Sally didn’t know how long she’d been walking; she’d come miles from her last memory and without her nieces. She’d yelled but doubted they heard her. Sally couldn’t even hear herself, both eardrums had burst. Surrounded by death, Sally felt her heart burst, too.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I said, she didn’t have no god-damn pearls. When they found her, if she'd had pearls, she would have been clutching them.
All she had was a shopping cart filled with a black plastic garbage bag and a cardboard box. The bag was filled with filthy clothes, a grimy blanket, and a pillow stained yellow from forgotten dreams and sick lungs full of despair. The box held a fish tank. No fish, just a tank with a bed of white pebbles and a fake oyster shell. She said the tank was her security.
He left.
The pearls were mine.

Luralee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barbara Lund said...

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?

Barbara Etlin said...

Wedding guests are rich, old, and boozy.
Marooned with the singles, so I can't be choosy.

A long open bar with a miniscule dinner.
We're all drunk and hungry. We've almost become thinner.

The best man's toast is more of a roast.
"May your genitalia never fail ya."

His joke falls flat on his audience's ears.
He forgot to account for the age gap, I fear.

My neighbor, a charming elderly lady,
finds one word obscure. It seems almost shady.

"Dear, what's 'genitalia'?" she said,
and I want to drop dead.

But I smile and I shrug
and feign ignorance instead.

Lora said...

If she'd still had pearls, she would have been clutching them.

But her pearls were lost in the fire along with everything else. Memories and mementos and mistakes, all gone in a single evening. A single hour.

She stood, shivering, on the night-darkened lawn. Supported by nameless neighbors, she watched the last flames lash at exhausted firefighters.

Perhaps she’d been impulsive. Perhaps a lady behaves better.

No matter.

Fingers at her throat, toying with a phantom necklace, she knew the pearls could be replaced. All the lost things could be found again.

Except, of course, for him.

She practiced crying.

Lennon Faris said...



If she’d had pearls, she would have been clutching them.

John Davis Frain said...

Birds, flowers, sunlight. Mary and Earl smile, pushing baby Julie’s pram.
If she’d had curls, Mary would’ve been nuzzling them.

Cowboys, lassos, handcuffs. Earl staggering drunk from the next-door condo.
If it’d been cowgirls, Mary woulda been double-dutching him.

Incriminating photos, Earl, cowboys. Mary hunting for her gun; finding a pair of golf balls.
If they’d been Earl’s, she’d have been crushing them.

Cops, Miranda, real handcuffs. Mary holding the murder weapon.
If she’d had pearls, she’d have been clutching them.

Self-defense, time served, Mary walks.
When she gets lil’ Julie, she’ll be chuffed again.

Kay Madurn said...

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.

Sunnygoetze said...

That devilish Annie Pearl! After church service, I usually go straight home,but mother was out of town visiting relatives, so I accompanied Annie to a friend's home,since she was willing to drive me home. Imagine my suprise when she pulled in front of the Blues Joint.

She suggested I come in to make sure she wouldn't be longer than neccessary. Once inside who should I see? Mother! With her skirt up her thigh and a man grinding between her legs. Had I had pearls I would've clutched them.

Steph Ellis said...

Ivoried pearls hung in glistening ribbons. She had eased them from their shell of flesh, unwrapped every sliver. Bone craft fed Morwenna, her skill in carving allowing her to command the highest price.

“I would like,” he said, “a cradle. There’s enough raw material there.”

Her customer gazed down at the woman’s corpse. It looked remarkably undamaged.

“Poison,” he said, “to maximise your … possibilities.”

“A cradle?”

He smiled. “I may no longer have a wife but I do have a child and a child should sleep in its mother’s arms.”

A mother herself, she nodded, picked up her hacksaw.

Brig said...

She’d danced and bounced through life as if hung from a string.
She’d shone in the darkness, more so in the light.
She’d been a touch proper, mildly outrageous, could never remember if she was wearing herself ironically.
She was increasing like her mother who she’d never planned to be.

The mother that missed her.
If she had Pearl, she’d be clutching them.

Marie McKay said...

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!'

CynthiaMc said...

"If she'd had pearls, she would have been clutching them," Aunt Minnie said.

"As I recall, all she had on was pearls," said Uncle Dan.

"Mother, not Sally," Aunt Minnie clarified.

Uncle Dan chuckled. "Mavis almost had a stroke when she found out Sally was Miss July."

"The adoption agency said Mom was a nun,"I said.

"That was Penthouse. Playboy was pearls."

I was almost afraid to ask.

"Sooo...who's my father?"

"Sally always said it was Bigfoot, but I have my doubts. I think it was an alien."

That's what I get for going on "Long Lost Family."

RosannaM said...

The serpentine road curved snake-like preventing Bertha from seeing anything in this hot, dusty desert.

Herbert was late. The arid clime sucked all moisture from her furrowed brow, and all bodily creases from double chin to fallen ankles and everything in between.

Easy heist, he’d said. Just grab the sapphires, the emeralds, the opals. And run, hoof it, beat a hasty retreat. Place the bag by the big tree, the massive oak and Uber it out to no-man’s land, where he’d pick her up.

If she’d had pearls, she would have been clutching them. But she didn’t, and he wouldn’t.

Scott Sloan said...

If she'd had pearls, she’d have been clutching them.
The light blue, silky sheer dress that jiggled into view clung to her body like a first time Alpinist who’d lost her tether…
Desperately… for dear life… and starting to sweat…
Maybe that’s why I couldn’t find anything else to grab onto…
Apparently, underwear wasn’t a requirement at your higher elevations…
I was headed for big-time trouble…why…? Because it was there…
I’m a hard-bitten ex-cop…
The harder the better… you follow…?
But I couldn’t tell if she was a biter, or not…
Not yet, anyhow…
The night was young…

Timothy Lowe said...

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

Gregory Shipman said...

“Nice lookin’ lady.” She’s in the ring of lamppost light on the dark corner begging for a mugging.
“Stow it, Simpson,” said Felix, “we’re thieves not beauty consultants. This dame’s ripe for the picking.”
“Yeah. She don’t know what’s comin’; if she’d had pearls, she would have been clutching them.”
“I heard, read or saw that line in a movie. It means…”
“I don’t give a shit, Simpson, let’s take this bitch.”
Two minutes later the two men lay dead at the serial killer’s feet. She put the thirty-eight in her purse next to her new string of pearls.

Brian Wells said...

"Another one?"
"No," she said. The dead man's feet stuck out from under her bed.
"Someone you knew?"
"No. Just my bridge partner."
"So, yes, then."
She stood, barefoot, in the advancing pool of blood.
"I'll get the mop," I said. "You get the saw."
"Fine." She tracked blood across the floor. "Why do you put up with me?"
"So you won't kill me."
"But I like you."
"You liked your bridge partner."
Her eyes were aflame. "Clutch pearls much?" she sneered. "You're still here, right? You're not judgmental like the others. You're the only daughter I DID like."

Craig F said...

I had hoped to be up early enough to just leave a note and walk away. I didn’t need the histrionics of her clutching imaginary pearls like some Southern Gothic Romance.

Instead she sat at the breakfast nook of the kitchen I had remodeled for her. A sign that our love just didn’t take. The plans had been settled, I busted my ass, and she wasn’t quite satisfied.

“It is a dead thing, our love.”

“I know.” Is all she said.

I heard a rustle as I passed. The knife bit deep.

“You knew I couldn’t stand another breakup.”

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Worst case scenario, Emma Jane is set to run interference. Regardless, Sarah Beth will catch that bouquet. Otherwise, all y’all will bear witness to the fit in hissy.

Everything was perfect: enviable venue, elite photographer, award-winning caterer, hothouse flowers, Mary Susan’s gown. Well, perfect except the groom, bless his heart, but you need one to have a wedding. And the amount of Aqua Net in the air could’ve thwarted Sherman’s march on Savannah.

Mary Susan eyed her bridesmaids, winked at one, then lifted that spray of magnolias high above her head. 172 women held their breath and clutched their pearls.

alyson faye said...

Alyson Faye said:-

The necklace rattled around her scrawny neck. Her bony fingers stroked the white pearly beads.
"There, there Martha, don't you fret. Momma's going to find you another set." Her hoarse voice fluted around the graveyard.
She hitched a ride into town on the back of Joe's truck. He didn't notice her presence. It was dark back there.
Outside the morgue she slid through the window and using their pliers, extracted a bucketful of teeth, many pearly whites, for stringing on a necklace for Martha. Her special girl, who only had to ask and Momma would provide.
Even in death.

Luralee said...

Tina horked up another pearl and set it on the tablecloth beside her mimosa. In a week there’d be enough for a necklace. She spooned more caviar onto her waffle.
“I wanted the diamonds.”

“You’re welcome to ‘em.” He winced. They never should’ve pissed off that leprechaun. His insides were killing him.

“Any sign of them?”

“Not yet.” He clutched the Sports Illustrated and rushed from the room.

“See you in an hour.”

Kregger said...

A messenger handed me a certified letter.

The contents included a release form and $100 check.

The corporate yahoos at Bad Boys, Inc. had reneged.

Time to do some she-splaining.

TV cameras and copious tears will sway public opinion.

Dressed in business formal, I will propose a plan for their board to resign.

In lieu of quitting, I will not upload video from their dry-sauna antics last New Year’s Eve.

Their hands dive under the table—clutching—their undies in a purl.

Their man-cards will shrink and ascend faster than a pair in an ice bath.

Boys are so predictable.

Karen McCoy said...

Terrified, Beatrice grabbed her collar, but the phantom pearls offered no comfort.

The large vole she’d brought home from the London Circus was her consolation prize for having to sell her necklace at auction.

And then, he started talking. “I said, I need a nesting place. This cage smells.”

“I…if you wish.” Beatrice inspected her credenza and removed some china eggs, chipped tea cups, and a pink tutu.

She held up the tutu--and found it nicely accommodated the vole’s rotund belly.

All of a sudden, Beatrice knew exactly how to reunite with her pearls.

Mallory Love said...

If she'd had pearls, she would've been clutching them. But she was a gambling girl and had lost them in a game years ago. She didn't know why she was so edgy. It's not like she'd much left to lose. She'd lost her heart to Tyler, who'd kept it even after he remarried. She'd lost her patience after being overlooked for a promotion twice. Then she'd lost her temper and, consequently, her job. She'd lost her will to live a time or two, and still she anxiously watched the Devil lay down his cards. Royal flush. There went her soul.

Michael Seese said...

“Always marry for love. But it's just as easy to love a rich fella.”

Young me clutched Mama's pearls of wisdom like a drowning rat clinging to a chunk of driftwood.

Mama sure played that matrimonial maxim into a winning hand, trolling the casinos, all tits and eyelashes. Poor Henry. Never knew what hit him.

I do.

Ball-peen hammer.

At least she considered me worthy of living in “her” house.

Another Mama maxim comes to mind.

“If you can't beat ’em, join ’em.”

I'm going to miss Mama.

But this string of pearls sure goes with her favorite blue dress.

Sherin Nicole said...

The grandmothers gave us strands of pearls on our fourteenth rotation and added more on our twenty-first. Pearls of wisdom and of power, some that could be weaponized, and a few for discovery.

They didn’t tell us the purpose. My cousin raged when the grandmothers’ refused to whisper their secrets too soon. She took her pearls to the cliff at the edge of our existence and tossed them into the nothingness.

When the shadowy night of the soul came for us, we flung our pearls into a starlit battle to claim ourselves. My cousin had none. And she was lost.

Will MacPhail said...

If Margery had her pearls, she would be clutching them. She loved her old life. Old money. They say the most basic desires stick. Hunger. Nostalgia. I imagine that’s why she still walks through the garden. Her prize roses now withered and brown like Margery.

Her eyes, black as tar lock with mine. I’m holding out her mother’s ivory-white pearls, passed down through the generations. She reaches, and for a moment I believe my Margery has come back to me. The feeling only lasts for as long as it takes to draw back the hammer on the revolver.

NLiu said...

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.

Amy Johnson said...

Young men and old money do not mix well, thought Marguerite. As soon as her son had parked his Porsche in front of the house, his latest interest slithered onto his lap. “I’m sure she’s a real pearl,” Marguerite muttered to her husband. Her next thought? A pearl of wisdom from her grandmother: “Hide the silver!

As for the woman, she didn’t have Theo’s Yale education. But even in a clutch, she always had a plan.

“Mother, Dad, this is Pearl.”

With fanfare, she removed her left glove and extended her hand. “Hi, Mom and Dad!”

AJ Blythe said...

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.