Monday, July 06, 2020

Flash fiction contest results

This was a really interesting experiment!
Did you like the change?


Thanks to all of you who entered. It was a terrific round of stories; one of the best in a long while.
I hope you liked it too.

I like Unknown's entry from the start.
Somehow it just captured the zeitgeist.

So, BrianH (revealed in comments) if you'll email me with your mailing address and what you like to read, I'll get a prize in the mail to you.

Thanks again to all of you who took the time to write and post entries, and comment on the results!

Herweith the results

Kudos for using all three prompts

Special recognition for reference to The Wire
Timothy Lowe

Special recognition for innovative use of empties

Tess Rook

Special recognition for OUTSTANDING new word

Shout out for reminder that Corona didn't always mean virus
Colin Smith

Long list

I folded the empty bags and put them away.
"...Orchid cactus, Hon, I said when you find an orchid cactus at the grocery store, you bring it home. Not a--" I flapped my hand at the prickly thing on the counter. "--I don't even know what to do with this."

"Eat it? It was in with the lemons."

"You're braver than me. Doesn't even look like food."

"Excuse me?" The prickly thing unrolled, waved a very dingy mob-cap, and took a bottle of Rit dye from her apron pocket. "May I borrow your washing machine?"
Michael Seese
The off-gray three-piece pinstripe, welded to his eternally hollow core, glummed through the door.

"BUZZ!" blared the beleaguered buzzer.

"RED!" flashed the fidgety light.

"Negative!" called out the monitor, counting the days left until infinity. "Next."

Practiced smile plastered to her vacated visage, the pastel pantsuit waved involuntarily to imaginary followers in corporeal form as she lilted through the scanner.

"Another negative!"

"Holy cow, that's a lot of empties. I don't get it. Where are their souls?" asked the minion in red.

"My bad. And that's the last time I make a bulk deal with the Congress," muttered Satan.
Leah Ning
When you spot an orchid cactus at the grocery store, you bring it home. You figure the plant might make you less lonely.
You blink. The cactus on your nightstand has bloomed and its flower is pink. You can’t remember if you like pink.
You blink. The flower is shriveled, the cactus an unhealthy yellow.
You blink. You’re lonely and can’t remember why.
The heap of rotting plants in your garage pricks your memory like cactus spines.
When you spot an orchid cactus at the grocery store, you bring it home. You figure the plant might make you less lonely.

KD James
"Is it my turn to do the laundry, or--"

"DIE!" A shoe hits the faded linoleum.


"DIEDIEDIE!!" More splats.

"I think you got it."

"Did you see the size of that thing?!"

I eye the squashed mess. "One might argue it's larger now."

"GAH! It'll haunt my dreams, with all the others. We've gotta move."

"Right. The laundry, is it--"

"YES. But I'll take this turn, the next FIVE, if you do cleanup here."

I fake a shudder, think of my secret stash of roaches, my even more secret Laundromat-phobia, and sigh dramatically. "If you insist."


Anonymous tipoff. We follow it, watch the schoolkids from our unmarked car.

"Holy cow, that's a lot of Empties," Linda whispers.

She's right. They stare at nothing. Normal kids avoid them.

Night. We return, investigate. Nothing - until the books. Paper shouldn't glow red in the dark.

Linda pokes one. "What are they?"

The light clicks on. We freeze.

Man's in the doorway: frayed cardigan, worrying grin. "People say books take your mind new places. It's no metaphor now."

"That's diabolic!" But... Hogwarts. "Can I--"

Linda's quicker. Pages flash. Her soul vanishes.

He sighs. "They only go to Michigan."
“I’m just not sure I’m ready, honey.” I hated having these discussions while we ran.
“Look, when you spot an orchid cactus at the grocery store, you bring it home. Period.”
“Ok.” I raised my hands in defeat. “All I’m saying is we don’t know how to take care of it. Or how big it will grow.”
“Well,” she grunted as she hurdled a rock, “I bet we can figure it out.”
“And you are certain it’s an orchid cactus?” A tree branch forced me to duck.
“Pretty sure. Why?”
I glanced back. “It’s gaining on us.”

Steve Forti

“Electromagnetic pulse. Like in The Matrix. Fries all electronics. Power grid, internet, communications. Everything.” He patted the crate. “And this baby’s a doozy.”

“What’s the target?”

“Jakarta.” He pointed to the map. “This circle here? That’s the effective zone. Everyone there goes dark.”

“Holy cow. That’s a lot of EMP.”

the record from the Seattle incident in ’23. Thought about topping it, but I respect the classics.”

“True dat. When’s it going off?”

“9am tomorrow. Right on the anniversary.”

“But today’s the 8th.”


“We’re flying west. We passed the international date line. It’s 8:59am right now.”

“Oh sh-zzzzzzztttttt……………………”

Jennifer Rand

When you spot an orchid cactus at the grocery store, you bring it home. "If it dies," the directions state, "so will YOU!"
Your superstitious nature warps your senses. Fearing for your life, you strictly adhere to the instructions:
"Five drops of purified water at three second intervals twice daily as the sun rises and sets."
You forgo vacations and social engagements to preserve your life.
But one day you forget, landing you--not surprisingly--in the hospital! Desperate, you call your roommate.
"Marjorie, water my orchid and hurry!"
"You're kidding," she responds. "You know that thing's plastic, right?"

Matt Krizen

Week 1: You give the kids homework and take them on walks. You reorganize your closets.

Week 3: The kids watch TV, argue and fight. You find a website that delivers wine to your door in under an hour.

Week 9: The kids painted the dog. You’re not sure when. You spot an orchid cactus at the grocery store. You bring it home and call it George.

Week 20: The news says it’s safe, but George doesn’t believe them. He’s usually right about such things. You still think about the kids, on the odd occasion when you have no wine.

Help me out here and tell me who you think should take the prize!
And if I've left anyone out, mention that too.


Kitty said...

I vote for Steve and his EMP Ties. Well done, Forti.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Toss up, for me, between KD James and Unknown.

C. Dan Castro said...

My top 3 list was:
3rd: KDJames: clever bit of fun
2nd: Steve Forti: liked the use of empties and, of course, the ending
1st: Leah Ning: this one had a quiet, affecting power to it, and therefore took 1st place.

nightsmusic said...

I'm not even going to try, there were so many good ones.

Thank you, Janet, though I don't remember when I said that, but it was fun reading them all.

NLiu's was ironic to me because I live in Michigan :)

JustJan's stuck out to me because, when I was first married, I was in the hospital and my husband was forced to do the laundry. When I told him all the underwear goes in one load, he thought my red long-johns top was underwear as well. He wore pink boxers for almost a year because I refused to toss perfectly good clothing. hee

I admit, I liked Emily K Fink's and I laughed out loud at Jennifer Rand's because that was newsworthy ;)

Too many good entries to choose.

Steve Forti said...

Matt's hits a little too close to home, I must say...

Aphra Pell said...

Ooof. This is a tricky one.

Luralee has to get a special wave of the sparkly pom-poms for getting Mrs Tiggwinkle in.

From the finalists I'm torn between Unknown and Matt, but I think Matt (or more precisely George) just edges it.

Luralee said...

I laughed a lot reading these.

It was amusing to see myself in so many of this week’s stories. The orchid cactus ( I haven’t named it. Maybe I should.) is sending up new leaves as long as my arm. I wonder what color flowers it will have. The grocery store tag simply said “green houseplant, filtered light”

I’m feeling embarrassed now, having not only outed myself as a plant nerd, but as someone who makes oblique references to random hundred year old children’s book characters.

I really liked Jennifer Rand’s story, and also Steve Forti’s even though he didn’t use my quote.

NLiu said...

Yay! I'm really happy to be a finalist!! Thanks!

I vote for Luralee or Unknown. I, too, have brought green and/or prickly things home from shops not knowing what they were! These two stories provided best and worst case scenarios...

Glad you got the Michigan reference, Nightsmusic! I should have named Linda after you but when I thought of that, it was too late to change.

Timothy Lowe said...

Great stuff! But I am completely baffled. Can anyone tell me how I unwittingly channeled The Wire?

Lennon Faris said...

These were excellent! NLiu's and Matt's cracked me up, so I think my vote goes to them this time. But all were wonderful.

From the original list, I really liked C. Dan Castro's. I don't even drink but I know what that feels like!

Matt Krizan said...

Of the other finalists, I especially enjoyed Steve’s. The EMP ties was nicely done.

Also, a shout out to AJ Blythe’s. I got a good chuckle out of that one.

Timothy Lowe, the only things I could think of were “death-grip,” one of the names given to the drugs being sold, or the railroad tracks, where Bunk and McNulty hung out all the time.

Adele said...

My three favourites:
Matt Krizen, though I'm worried about the kids
Steve Forti, because unexpected and a great ending
N Liu, because now I want to know what happens when disembodied souls start appearing in Michigan

Beth Carpenter said...

My choices would be Steve Forti or KD James, but I loved them all!

charlogo said...

I got a kick out of entries from Jennifer Rand, Unknown, C.Dan Castro, and A.J. Blythe!

Kate Larkindale said...

So hard to choose when the stories are all so good!

I particularly liked Unknown, Matt Krizen and Leah Ning. Very different stories, but all equally affecting.

Katja said...

Congrats to all Long-Listers and Finalists. Good work, everyone!

Um, just as a tiny, little aside - cause it looks slightly empty right next to Kitty ;) - I did use all 3 prompts as well. :)

Jennifer Rand said...

Hard to choose from so many great options! I think Matt gets my vote.

french sojourn said...

For me it was a toss up... between KD, and Steve.

Well done all.

KDJames said...

Thanks for the mention, Janet (and commenters!). I haven't done one of these for a while and it was fun. Good to switch things up a bit with the phrases, but harder (for me) than prompt words.

I thought Leah Ning's entry would be a finalist. It has a quiet subtle power that made me shiver at the end.

Loved all the finalists too! There's some impressive talent in this group and no way could I pick one over the others. Congrats to all. Good work!

Colin Smith said...

Thanks for the mention, Janet! And a hat-tip to the Caped Crusader for the inspiration. :)

As for who should win... sorry, I'm no help. Congratulations everyone! Have fun choosing, Janet.

Emily K Fink said...

This was so much fun! Thank you for doing this, Janet! I'm fond of the EMP and Ties.

nightsmusic, I wanted to say thanks for your nice comment. It was the first time trying to get those gears turning again after several years getting myself and kids away from abuse. Just needed to tell you how much I appreciated that.

nightsmusic said...

Oh, Emily, it just struck a chord with me. And I wish you all the best with your next steps. There's a reason you won't see my given name many places on the interwebs and the times you do, they're all old. Very, very another life. *hugs*

Fearless Reider said...

Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is a sentimental favorite at our house, so I have to go with Luralee's tale of the prickly laundress.

And you're right, Katja. A couple of extra kudos to the overachievers, if I may be so bold ;-). I fear my ticket to Carkoon is already punched.

Katja said...

It'll be OK, Fearless Reider, don't be scared, be fearless (love your username!). I'll come with you and eat the kale for you. I actually like kale! ;D xD

Just Jan said...

Congratulations to all the mentions on this post. What an imaginative group! And I take my hat off to those of you talented enough to use all three prompts. That being said, my vote is tied between Unknown and Matt Krizen. Good luck!

Craig F said...

I have read through all of the entries four times. Each time I picked a different winner. All I can offer is good luck.

Thanks for the shout and for being able to figure it out. I could have done so much better.

BrianH said...

Hi all, Unknown here. I just got an email that I’m pretty sure is spam, but it threatened some things I didn’t know were even possible if I don’t post it. Although it’s probably bogus, I don’t want to take a chance. Here goes:

Me like Matts. It very good. Me like Matt too. He never care if I only wear underpants and am not true epiphyllum. He love me anyway.

But children too loud


Even still making noise

Computer fun to use. Try taking selfie next!

P.S. Dog still taste like paint — Matt, please fix!

Anyone know what this means?!

Leah Ning said...

Whoa - thanks for all the kind comments, guys, and for the longlist! Loved reading everyone else's, too! Super clever! :)

Matt Krizan said...

LOL, Brian H. And Congrats on the win!

Thanks to Janet and to everyone else for the mentions. :)

Colin Smith said...

Congratulations, BrianH!

I have updated the Contest Spreadsheet in the Treasure Chest.

John Davis Frain said...

Congrats Unknown Brian. That was a wonderful story. Well, obviously, since it won.

Can't believe I missed a contest. And a new format. Arrggggghhhhh. OTOH, I've knocked out 10,000 words in Camp Nano so far in July, so I have a decent excuse. Still, I should've added 100 more words to my total.

Some super entries, so it's a good thing I didn't toss my hat in, it would've been trampled.

BrianH, didn't even recognize you till you took your mask off. Now, put it back on please ... or back up six more feet.

Beth Carpenter said...

Congratulations, Brian H. Great story!

BrianH said...

Thanks all for a very kind welcome to the reef (reif?)!

AJ Blythe said...

Gosh, there were some great FF tales this time around. Congrats to everyone who entered, but a special cheer for Brian for the win.

And thanks to Matt and Charlogo for the shout out :)