Friday, September 06, 2019

A pithy flash fiction contest!

I have some terrific books to give away as prizes!

You can win one, probably, not all!

Let's celebrate getting back to work after vacation with a flash fiction contest [and a fresh attempt to Thwart the Fort(i).]

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:


To compete for the Steve Forti Deft Use of Prompt Words prize (or if you are Steve Forti) you must also use: pneumo

IF you can correctly identify how the words were chosen you too can win a prize. I'll help you out this time by telling you pith was the first word. The others followed from pith.

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: pith/pithy  is ok, but pith/pitch and pith/pinchtip 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 on paper, 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 on the results post the next day...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 open:  8:00am Saturday 9/7/19

Contest closes: 9:00am Sunday 9/8/19

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! 

oh rats, sorry, too late.
Contest closed at 9.


french sojourn said...

“…and finally, yesterday’s test was abysmal, some of the answers for that last question were embarrassing. The answer I was looking for was… “the temporary recovery from a prolonged decline followed by the continuation of the downtrend!”

Students’ shifted in their chairs.

“Here’s what I got instead… “a muted pithy plop”. Another creative one, “a sack of pulp hitting the floor.”

A student cleared his throat.

“But my favorite, by far, was… “a thud, muffled and softened by shag carpeting” …this is a fucking economics class people, tomorrow I want 100 words, correctly describing the term… “dead cat bounce”, dismissed!”

Ellis Tandy said...

“You look beautiful in your white dress, Mommy. Really spithy.”

Harriet’s voice was muffled behind her scarf as she gazed at Lia adoringly.

Mutely, Lia smiled back. Her throat felt thick with nerves; her pulse had been thumping like a dance beat all morning. Now, her eyes softened as she hugged her four-year-old daughter. “It’s a big day.”

“The biggest!”

“I’ll wave to you from up front, OK?”

“I’ll wave back!”


Behind the pulpit, Lia raised her hands. “Let us pray.”

Amazingly, she sounded serene, confident. She sounded… like a real priest!

Maybe she could do this, after all.

Steve Forti said...

When I put in my contact lens, often I drip some saline in first so it doesn’t start out dry. Yesterday I picked up – I thought so, at least – the saline bottle and squirted some in my eye. Except I grabbed the cleaning solution instead. If you’re wondering what a blow torch to the eyeball feels like, you can’t muffle that scream.

The chemical burn left a (temporary?) crimson wreckage, splotched in a jumbled up neum olio and transmuted my sclera to rotten tomato pulp. My son cries and runs away. Maybe I should get an eyepatch and consider piracy.

Timothy Lowe said...

Dear Hester,

My congregation may not know the truth, but history will profess it. I have spied you, surrounded by candles, oft enraptured in muffled prayer, pretending allegiance to your scarlet pulpit. Hives afflict me daily when you dally our sweet Pearl about. Pneumonia is no worse than the pain I suffer when I see her alabaster face.

And now you play the victim, put my name on a public list, send an open letter shaming me to the entire community?

You may envision your soul transmuted by a mere letter, my dear, but God knows otherwise.


Marie McKay said...

In a tower-block high in the sky, there lived a young woman. She had many things. She had creams to soften her resistance. Trinkets of gold to mute her pithy responses. Pulp to teach her she was ugly. TV to stop her from thinking. Demands to produce children that muffled her ambition.
She needed to escape; so, she tied the tv to the pulp, the pulp to the gold, the gold to their demands (which meant it would stretch all the way to the ground.) Then down down she climbed leaving all their expectations behind.

Cipher said...

In the darkness my breathing grows muted
Wet, foamy gasps
Soft endings and muffled starts
Whispers from where the knife rests, still
Leaking from the red pulp of my bones

I am buoyed on the tide, sea-foam
Crisp and green and fragrant with life slips
Across the pulsing of my skin

And I wish again for impossible things
For kindnesses long forgotten in the pith of my dreams
For promises of a fickle Prince and bargains of a Sea Witch

And in the darkness my heartbeats grow muted
And cold salted waves come crashing in

Drowning out the beats

Mike Hays said...

Ugh, orange juice. It’s supposed to soften the blow of chest cold misery. “Vitamin C, vitamin C, vitamin C...or you’ll catch pneumonia.” Mom’s pithy, catch-all medical advice on my phone goes ignored.

I cannot stand OJ. Not for all the microbial vanquishing power in the world would I chance one sip of that thick, pulpy liquid. I mute her motherly prescriptions muffled under layer upon layer of grandma’s knitted afghans. I vow to fight this bug my way. Warm blankets, tea with a touch of honey and a splash of Missouri bourbon, and my secret elixir, sweet summertime dreams.

Groomerisms said...

Mute, the children stared at the juice running down the clown’s wrist.

“My fault,” Bob said to the other parents. “Balloon animal guy was already booked.”

Glistening pith erupted from the top of the orange. Spattered with pulp, the kids shrieked and laughed, grabbing oranges off the table, crushing and tearing and throwing the pieces.

“I’m turning on the hose,” Judy said, speaking behind her hand to muffle the volume.

“They’ll get pneumonia,” Bob protested.

“They’re drenched in vitamin C,” Judy said, refusing to soften.

The clown, the Incredible Orange Juicer, flourished his sticky palm full of empty rind.

ashland said...

“New around these parts?”
A thumb raised. “ 'Keep. Neu Mojo, clean.”
“From Deutchland?”
“Philippi then west.”
Muff lead ya here?”
Two fingers this time. “Happens often. Them uteruses always do.”
“Need supplies?”
“Got ampul plenty. Ready for the third?”
“Just go five fingers deep already.”
“Your call.”
When it was over, money exchanged.
“Never met a gynecologist that drank so much.”
“Never met a bartender ventriloquist.”

Kregger said...

Google search: Ichthyocide.

About 3,640,000 results (0.42 seconds)

What is the most humane way to kill a fish for eating?



What is the most humane way to kill a fish?



What is the most inhumane way to kill a fish?

“That’s what I want.”

First, raise the ambient water temperature to soften the fish’s attitude and then muffle it
to prevent respiration.

“Hmmm. Fish with bad attitudes are intolerable.”

Clickity-click tap, enter.

“If fish are mute, why do I still hear them scream?”

Blinking cursor.

Unlike his famous clownfish namesake, Pneumo grew up hating fish.

Colin Smith said...

“Is this orange pulp, Granny?” Rosalind said, examining the clay bowl’s contents. Malcontentia snatched the bowl and dumped the pulp into her cauldron.
“Yeth!” she snapped.
“Did you soften it with this?” Rosalind picked up a small hammer.
“Yeth!” Malcontentia snapped again.
Rosalind found strands of a soft white substance next to the orange peel. With a glance to her grandmother she ate them.
“That’th thtwange!” Rosalind said. Malcontentia frowned, then smiled as Rosalind coughed. She tried to speak, but her words came out muffled. And then they were muted.
“That’th what you get for taking the pith,” Malcontenia sniffed.

While these words can all be found in the poems of John Keats (, I suspect Janet came across the word "pith" (maybe in a Keats poem), looked it up, then went on a Thesaurus journey from pith to pulp to soften to muffle to mute.

Megan V said...

This is the part where I should make a pithy comment. The thing is, I’m not funny. My attempts at humor are like a muted gray—besieged by mediocrity. The blow of every punch line is softened by my inability to withhold the answer to a joke. For example:

Writing is a dance. Dancing hippos wear ballet slippers. So why must writing hippos wear rain-boots to make pulp fiction…ahem…why must writing hippos wear rain boots?

Perhaps I’ve earned a muffled laugh? More likely none at all. Of course, it’s really hard to tell what goes on behind the screens.

Steph Ellis said...

It had been a good year for windfall in Eden. Eve had mashed the apples, forced the pulp between a rustic press and left it to ferment. Adam had merely watched. As usual.

Her mood did not soften as her mate continued to leave the bulk of the work to her. As usual. Fell asleep. As usual.

“Why don’t we add a secret ingredient?’ hissed the snake. ‘You know, something which is the real, um, essence, of you.”

Eve grinned, muffled the splashes as Adam slept. Then poured his drink ready.

“Tastes like pith,” slurred Adam.

“Hope so,” said Eve.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

The thief of acclaimed bad repute went mute
when he clutched Tab’s decrepit hands,
Her age was nothing, she could ransom a king,
And ransom was all he’d planned.

A hostage she was and a hostage she’d stay—
so Hootie had originally thought.
He’d muffled her cries, but found to his surprise,
Tabs wasn’t the one who was caught.

She offered Hootie an monarch’s dowry;
He offered to love her true.
Though the pulpit’s a coffin that grief visits often,
Tabby laughed as she told him I do,
I do,
I do.
Tabby laughed as she told him I do.

Becca Ralston said...

Green stems between my calloused fingers, and I twist a bully’s snakebite. The pith cracks, a harsh chiropractor’s pop. Now softened pulp, the flexible stem connects to its frame. I tie it. One finished and more to go.

Twist and crack and tie, then untie and twist and crack again. Training plants is a sluggish adventure.

When I first began, my fingers had faltered, stumbling panic. My fear of damaging fragile epidermis. I muffled each seemingly ruinous snap, and my progress.

Backup plants line the green-tinted windows, replacements in the event of disaster. In their muteness, they are alien.

alyson faye said...

The winery was locked up for the night; Roberto’s muffled foosteps
stalked the corridors, his torch softening the shadows. A sound made him
duck behind a crate.
A muted shuffling step echoed.
“Damn it. Paul promised everyone was gone by 10pm.” Roberto crouched, his spine cracking.
A shape limped into sight.
“I heard your bones speak, boy,”
Roberto slammed into the figure, who did not flinch.
Instead it pithed his spine with a chisel, leaving Roberto, unable to move, watching the hammer hover over his head.
“Brain pulp for the wine,” crooned the nightwatchman, “The secret ingredient for our success.”

katie said...

My kids refuse to eat the pith on oranges but their grandma refuses to let them remove it. I soften the battle by taking bits off while she naps and the kids watch tv on mute. She says I baby them but I'm trying to prevent the gagging and crying that happens every pulpy lunch. I hate the way she muffles all our desires. Until I can scrape up enough money to move us out it's shitty attitudes all around. And three months of pith, like my kids have been choking on, waiting where I hide it.

Sunnygoetze said...

I have decided to take the pith and the pulp of my flash fiction entries and turn them into an Anthology titled, "Who Killed Shakespeare". Perhaps thus being the anecdote to soften my ego, mute my self-indulgence and muffle myself in better understanding the literati.

Johnell said...

Claudia scoured the shores near Lympne. Umoonasaurus bones often appeared near seas, just not England's. Still, the photos the Manchester Umoonasaurus Fellowship (MUF) flew down to her looked legitimate. Any plesiosaur near Loch Ness would be the Australopithecus equivalent for Nessie enthusiasts, and her ticket to fame. Claudia’s thoughts ran the gamut. Each time she’d made a discovery, Professor Mackray, that pulpital bore, took credit. Luckily, Claudia knew bones, and some tricks of carbon-dating. She hefted her backpack and smiled at the thought of her future “discovery”: a new hominid found inside a plesiosaur’s belly. She’d name it “Mackraylopithicus.”

C. Dan Castro said...

Tom’s my unlikely wingman.

He’ll stay mute tonight. He’s nervous. And nerves bring out his impediment. Ironic, given his life. His flair for the proverbial proverb.

A woman stumbles over. “I’m Mandy. I like you.” Her voice softens. “Both of you.”

Tom’s nerves instantly fail. “I’m a preetht!”

“PRIEST??!” She wobbles away. “STACY!”

“Sheeth pithed.”

Mandy veers toward a giant. A giant with a flirty girlfriend? A giant who might beat us to the proverbial pulp?

“Where’s your Jesus now, Tom?!”

Instead, Stacy’s a nearby woman, who muffles Mandy with a gentle hand.

Off Tom’s look: “Yeah yeah, praise Jesus.”

Angel L said...

A glance at Melba softened her heart to a pulp. The mute form was obviously deceased. Tonya muffled her sudden sob. Epithelioma had finally taken its toll.

She eyed the clock but movement to the left drew her gaze.

A phantom wind ruffled its black cloak.

"Who are you?"

The reaper ignored her but glided forward as her arm began to pulse and glow. Her white coat now felt too tight. A blazing sword suddenly extended from her arm as she fell into a familiar stance.

Tonya remembered everything then. Death would end today and by her hand.

Craig F said...

My muffled shoes softened my step but I only got two steps.
“You look more pith than pulp, little man.”
“Probably taste bad too.”
“You think you can match for me for the princess?”
“She is my niece.”
“Where is your armor, lance, sword?”
“Didn’t do much for the others. I’m using the power of love.”
“Think so?”
“Her mom did, I am an alchemist, and no I am not going to make you gold.”
“Shit, then I must torch you.”
“Nope, I brought a can of dragon repellent.”
I squirted it into his face. He went mute, then ran.

Megan V said...

Words inspired by the Great British Bake Off/ baking show? I’m stuck on that show lol.

Casual-T said...

Oh crap! I thought, as the plane’s doors opened, yet the parachute didn’t. An unexpected turn of events, but as an agent in her majesty’s service, I wasn’t going to panic—just yet. Icy air ignited my lungs. Clouds rushed by vertically, washing Afghani residue off my tuxedo. Beside me a copper-colored pul plummeted earthward. With minor adjustments, the sheik’s lifeless, kaftan-clad body, transmuted into a semi-functional paraglider.


With a muffled thud I hit familiar, soft, English turf. I paused, slightly shaken (not stirred). Luckily, the worst that came from this was a mild case of pneumonia. Go figure.

RosannaM said...

“Hide the money.” Muffled voice from the tipi that’s next to ours.

Wilderness couple’s retreat. Wife’s idea.

Yay, me.

It’s often the case. I agree to something before pushing the TV’s mute button.

Wife hands me some guava drink filled with pulp and not enough booze.

Yay, me.

I guzzle it, or attempt to before she plops down on top of me with enough force to cause a pneumothorax..

I multitask, eavesdropping, husbanding, planning.

Yay, me. Seriously, yay me.

Tomorrow’s the oasis hike. I’ll bow out. Say I’m dehydrated. Locate and rehide the money.

Yay, me.

John Davis Frain said...

Rip tossed and turned. Entered and exited REM sleep for the thousandth time. Scratched his chin to discover a pulpy beard. Rubbed the soft end again, making sure he wasn’t dreaming.

“What the--?”

He rolled over, tapped the snooze button. Realized his mistake. Instead of setting his alarm for 2030, he’d set his calendar. Finally, thirty years into his nap, he awakened to the smooth sound of a podcast.

Hello, true crime fans. Today we bring you the strange disappearance of Mr. R.V. Winkle…

Rip muted the volume. “Get lost.” He muffled a smile, pithy expressions his new black.

Fearless Reider said...

Pinch. “Stop it,” hissed Mama. Ike slid down the sweat-slicked pew, out of reach. The organ sagged to a stop and the choir softened into their seats with a polyester sigh.

We waited, mute. The heat-thick air pricked my neck, an itchy woolen muffler.

Up to the pulpit rose the preacher. And something happened. His words… they swirled around and swooped down from the ceiling like a cool wind, cool water washing over us. “Maybe,” I thought. We could be different. Better.

Outside, Ike socked my jaw. I turned the other cheek, then shoved him down the steps.

Not today.

Iamanoldvampirechild said...

Elvira Albatross probably forgot about turning the town butcher into a teddy bear.

She looked like she’d sucked orange pith the day Artie sold her ‘pnuemonic’ meat, ‘killing’ her 31 year old cat, Muffles.

I’m mute, stomache full of dacron. When Bubba James became Little Jimmy I got a bath in something other than Kool-Aid.

At the tip I’ll be battered to pulp by the elements. Presently I’m softened; grateful I can close my eyes at night. Small mercies Elvira.

* * *

Weird dream. My teddy was talking. I stare at Rufus The Great’s silhouette.

I swear his eyes are closed

Will MacPhail said...

It’s the same each time. He goes mute, and a look of concentration comparable to a super computer built in the seventies playing solitaire, captures my attention. A mixture of pulp and pasteurization gone perfectly wrong. It softens as I peel back the fabric, and the smell is a brash mixture of demon’s breath and spoiled homogenized milk. I muffle my response with a jerking motion and turn away. He laughs, I swear he laughs at my anguish but he is the pith of my heart. The cold air causes a warm stream to slap my cheek, and he laughs.

flashfriday said...

He thought, after they’d chucked him unceremoniously into the firepit, he’d easily work his way back out.

An hour, if that, he’d bragged. Like the old days.

But the ash was soft, enfolding him deliciously in its warmth; and the embers’ pulpy glow wrapped round like a comforting muff. Leaving aside the regrettable absence of knight-flesh, for a manmade firepit it wasn’t half bad. If he tarried, who could judge?

Even the stars gazed down mutely, dispassionately.

He closed his eyes, letting the heat snuggle between his wrinkled scales. Soon!!! he’d roar his fiery revenge.






NLiu said...

It had softened into a pulp, brown mush deliquescing into the humus.

Rotten. Turned.

His beloved? The same.

If only they had listened.

If only they knew a lie when they saw one.

His children's wails were muffled beyond the garden wall. Their steps faded. His fury subsided. He stood mute, grieving. What would it cost to hold them again? He would pay it. Pay anything.

He picked up the apple core, crushed the pith until it ran through his fingers like blood. Then hurled it out of Eden.

Sherin Nicole said...

“It happens soften-- I mean so often. What can I do?”

His therapist quirked a brow. The pithy yet mute gesture said “go on.”

Murphy replied, “It’s a law that rules my life. Things go wrong.”

He muffled a scream, biting his knuckle. The masticated flesh was already a pulpy bruise. He’d get gangrene or a spider would lay eggs in the wound. Such was Murphy’s life.

His therapist remained silent. A burst pipe began to drip acid on his head.

“Talk to me,” Murphy said too loud. Then pleaded, “please?”

His therapist sagged and held up her notebook: Laryngitis

Just Jan said...

They hand me an unmarked box and papers filled with jibberish--muffled heart sounds…hemopneumothorax--nothing to show for a wasted afternoon except a hole in my wallet.

I don’t try to soften the blow. “The tires crushed him into pulp. I’m sorry.”

She mutes me. When she comes back, my kid’s wailing in the background.

“Jesus,” I say, “what’d you tell him?”

She puts a door between them. “That Smokey’s not coming home, and neither is Daddy.”

Her declaration is pithy, but undeserved. I toss the box into a Dumpster. Next time, I won’t make it look like an accident.

Amy Johnson said...

I’ve always detested that saying.

Despite both of us being sour, Lenore and I ended up at the guy’s apartment. Lenore eventually softened a little. Must have been why he chose her.

I saw the sweat drops on his forehead, saw him reach for the knife. I tried with every bit of pith and pulp in my being to save her. But I was mute and unable to move.

He pressed the knife to her skin. Then he said it. Muffled it as if making a joke to himself, in that flippant tone. “When life gives you lemons …”

Michael Seese said...

I cleared my throat.

"It softens easier to wallow in self pithy, than to face one's demons. Such is the fatal flaw of the young Danish prince, an inert introvert lamenting his existential existence, whimpering like a muffled pulpy, too timid to bark or bite. Alas, poor Yorick! I pneumo— "

"That's enough." I'd come to learn that Professor Cole's arched eyebrow heralded the arrival of a parable posed as a question. "Do you care to explain?"

"I dictated my term paper. I guess Google Voice never read Hamlet."


"You gave me an F. So the point is mute."