Friday, July 03, 2020

Flash Fiction Contest!

My clients have learned to fear email from me that has the subject line: I have this idea!

I revised that from "I have this great idea" several years back when I realized I should let them decide if it was great or not.

So, I have this idea!

Instead of prompt words, how about a choice of three prompt sentences?
(great, right??)

These rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use one of these prompts in the story. It does not have to be the start or the finish, BUT the words must be in order. You don't need to include the author of the phrases.

when you spot an orchid cactus at the grocery store, you bring it home.—Luralee
"Do the laundry or die!" —french sojourn

holy cow, that's a lot of empties. —nightmusic
3. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

4. 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.

5. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

6. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

7.  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.

8. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE.

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!"). Save that for the contest results post.

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:  9am, Saturday, 7/4/20

Contest closes: 9am, Sunday, 7/5/20

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!
Rats, too late!
Contest closed.


Kitty said...

Two neighbor ladies rockin’ on the porch…

Mable: “Sweet Jesus, you killed another plant.”

Erline: “Luralee bought it at the Piggly Wiggly, claims I tol’ her when you spot an orchid cactus at the grocery store, you bring it home. I never said no such thing. She’s just tryin’ to wiggle out of doin’ the shoppin’. Pardon me… HENRY, DO THE LAUNDRY OR DIE!

Althea lugs a basket of bottles to the curb. “Recyclin’ things are out, Mama.”

Mable: “Holy cow, that’s a lot of empties.

Erline: “Raisin’ three youngins is hard work. Is it any wonder I drink?”

Timothy Lowe said...

I left the stupid hero on the cliff, fingers clutched in a death-grip. Maiden tied to railroad tracks in front of an oncoming train.

It’s always railroad tracks.

I’m sick of this shit. Why can’t I do something else? Do the laundry or diet? Go on tour with Kelly Clarkson? Instead, I have to play custodian to all their damn happy endings.

Maybe I’ll take a vow of silence. Enroll in the Colorado School for Mimes. That would show them.

Honestly, I don’t care. All I know is I ain’t singing. It’s over, baby.

For this fat lady, at least.

NLiu said...

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."

Anthony said...

Night closing. Dawn approaching. Vampire walks into the tomb after a long night of feasting. He sees his love, his eternal companion, nestled in her coffin. He looks around at the empty blood bags lying on the floor, a Vampire afraid of killing humans, she is a strange one. He hangs the full blood bags in the refrigerator, closes the door, and once again looks at the mess. He shakes his head, ageless shoulder length blonde hair rustling, and smiles – “Holy cow, that’s a lot of empties,” he replies and crawls into his coffin, settles in. The day arrives.

Matt Krizan said...

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.

Katja said...

“What’s THAT?”
Wolf NEVER has a basket!
“At least *I* don’t ABuse Grandma doing it!”
“I’m bringing FOOD, DRINKS. NOT dirty underpants!”
Wolf peeks. “Holy cow, that’s a lot of empties. Breathe at me!”
“Not your business.”
“Go pick flowers for Grandma!”
But she already has one. “Grandma said, ‘When you spot an orchid cactus at the grocery store, you bring it home.’ See?”
He drops his basket onto her foot. “Do the laundry or die!”
“Fuck you!”
A cactus sting and Wolf dies.
She grabs her mobile, rings the Brothers Grimm: “Re-write the tale now. Submit. We might win!”

Craig F said...

The line was interminable and she had no idea why she was in it. The mask she was so careful with was missing and social distancing a continual struggle.

An attendant passed and she stopped him.
“What is this line for?”
“It is the new purgatory. I’m Hades.”
“How do I get these fools to respect social distancing?”
“What is it about purgatory that you don’t understand? All these others are hollowed out, empty of humanity.”
“Holy cow, that’s a lot of empties.”
“They started as a trickle in 2016. The last few months have been this solid line.”

travelkat said...

“Holy cow, that's a lot of empties.”

“I’m neither holy, nor a cow, but you’re right about the hellish mess.”

“Where can you dump them?”

Thomas chuckled, a damp, unpleasant sound. “The swamp, where else? Can’t leave them for parents to find.”

Phil whistled. “You’re never caught.”

“They never suspect the quiet ones. Stand watch.”

Phil pecked his parakeet cage door, popping the lock.

Thomas the vampire turtle levitated from his bowl. Phosphorescent algae dripped from his shell, luciferin shimmering. A dozen teenagers lay before him, pale and drained.

Thomas grabbed one with his reddened fangs and began to drag.

Sian Brighal said...

"So you extract what's there and then refill with your clients?"
"Yes...quite simple. And maintenance costs are minimal on our end, as we leave them free range and select the most suitable when a client decides to occupy their real estate."
"Real, man, that's cold."
"Maybe, but it's also about 1 million dollars per pun intended."
"So how many clients have purchased their 'real estate'?"
"Just over 3 million and rising."
"Holy cow, that's a lot of empties!"
"Yes, but we like to think of it has renovation...not like you humans do much with your brains anyway."

french sojourn said...

He was late, again.
“I want to share a new bluesy song with you,” she turned it on.

“You got five uprights on the floor,
Three piano tuners at your door.
Never look her in the eye,
Better do the laundry or die.”

It’s two am she let you in,
By four am you’re as guilty as sin.
Never look her in the eye,
Better do the laundry or die.”

She paused it and looked at him.
“It’s ok… why are you looking at me like that?”
“Is there something you want to tell me… look me in the eye.”

KDJames said...

"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."

BrianH said...

“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 said...

“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……………………”

Shoshana said...

Vladimir Putin slithered to the parapet high above Fifth Avenue and gazed out across the decimated landscape, patting his proboscis with a silk napkin. Midtown Manhattan was a microcosmic snapshot of all that remained of the land of the free. “Holy cow, that’s a lot of empties!”
He glanced over Xi Jinping, whose papillae vibrated in a rueful shrug. “In hindsight, we probably should have kept a few back for breeding.”

Jennifer Rand said...

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?"

Luralee said...

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?"

Tess Rook said...

“The key to being a good grave-minder is to do just that: mind the graves.” Todd unlocked the cemetery gate.

“Gotta’ make sure everyone stays put,” he continued. “It’s about attention to detail and - ”

He gave a muffled yelp as he fell, disappearing into a deep hole.

Almost immediately he popped back up, peering over the edge of the grave.

“Ugh…” I motioned to the turned soil and broken caskets further down the row. “What happens if they get out?”

His eyes widened to the size of the full moon overhead.

“Holy cow, that’s a lot of empties.”

Leah Ning said...

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.

Emily K Fink said...

The seed I planted never bloomed. Five years I nurtured it while his narcissistic barbs bit at my spirit. If not for the ER doctor telling me my body couldn’t withstand any more monthly visits - what 20-something shows freaky symptoms of stroke and heart attack and so on? - I wouldn’t be here reading plant tags. No thorns, yes flowers it says. When you spot an orchid cactus at the grocery store, you bring it home.

And then you plant it where it can feast on your ex’s decaying organic matter nearby.

BJ Muntain said...

Last night, I drank too much. As I lay in my husband's arms, an uninhibited thought entertained me.

Today, I bought a butcher's knife. It lies under my pillow.

I love my husband. Don't I? I pick up a filthy pair of his underpants and throw it in with the others.

As our anniversary feast gets cold, waiting, the booze goes down the drain. No more uninhibitedness.

He comes home at bedtime, reeking of beer. My hands shake.

Bottles are ready for recycling. "Holy cow, that's a lot of empties!"

The knife calls. I say, "Do the laundry or die!"

Colin Smith said...

Richard straightened his mask as he entered the cave. He almost didn’t come. But this was his best friend.
“Hello?” he called. “Are you there?”
A low groan came from the shadows. Richard notice a figure slumped against the wall. He approached with cautious steps.
His foot hit something. The hollow clunk told him it was a bottle, one of many that littered the floor.
“Holy cow, that’s a lot of empties, Bruce. They said you had a case of Corona.”
“At least three cases,” Bruce slurred, straightening his cowl. “Sorry you missed the party.”

Michael Seese said...

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.

C. Dan Castro said...


Sheila's note. Found it Monday while collecting recyclables (Sheila's empties).

We're working different shifts for...can't remember...two weeks? Won't see her.

Especially now. Separate bedrooms.





Can't recall when I last trembled with anger.

I bring her empties to the brimming bin. Holy cow, that's a lot of empties.

I storm into her room.

Bed's unused.

I forgot, Sheila's visiting her family.

All week.

Stumble to the notes. Write the first one's words. Compare.

The handwriting's identical.

Tain Leonard-Peck said...

People dashed in cumbersome hazmat suits. A shattered vial left bedlam in its wake.

"Do the laundry or die!,” one bellowed, cycling loads at breakneck speed.

“Scrub the scrubs!” his colleague shrieked between gritted teeth.

“What was it? Ebola, the Black Death, Covid-19?”

"Worse. It was Tom’s paternity test.”

“Why a test, aren’t the triplets his?”

“They’re not even the right species.”

“You mean?”

“He’d thought it was just plastic surgery, but the deception ran more than skin deep.”

"What are they...human?"

“Worse. Improvisational spoken-word jazz musicians.”

“With epileptic goldfish?”

“And muttonchops and man buns.”

“The horror.”

Fearless Reider said...

Disembodied voices crackle from the blue glow.

“When you spot an orchid cactus at the grocery store, you bring it home,” one intones.

“OK, Auntie Luralee,” I sigh. “That’s… oddly specific.”

“Wear sunscreen, and dance like nobody’s watching.”

“Thanks for the visual, Dad.”

“Roman nights, music in Vienna, dinners with the French, sojourns in Scotland,” Grandma rhapsodizes, “Oh, the places you’ll go… someday.”

An eerie echo. “Do the laundry or die! That pile’s sprouting legs.” The call’s coming from inside the house! “Speaking of piles, roomie -- holy cow, that's a lot of empties."

Overachiever, sure, but Zoom graduation sucks.

AJ Blythe said...

I follow the rules.
Kaylee doesn’t.
Mum said Kaylee was to do the laundry or die.
Kaylee coloured her hair.
I followed the rules.

Verdict: Death by homophone.

C. H. Reaver said...

"Sorry you couldn't afford anything." As the lucky twin adopted by a rich family, I always felt guilty.
"Laurie, sis, seeing you was enough."

I don't recognize the bag I'm about to put in the trunk. "What is this?"

"Couldn't help it!" She sounds quieter. "When you spot an orchid cactus at the grocery store, you bring it home. No matter the cost!"

"You didn't pay for it!"

"See ya in cell!" The sound of the engine, my engine, grows distant. I watch the stolen plant in my hands prevent me from seeing my sister disappear into the dusk.

Marie McKay said...

When you spot an orchid cactus at the grocery store you bring it home. It's a special find: flowers were thorns would normally be. You make sure conditions are perfect. Beware harsh sunlight. Just enough watering. Temperature just right. Kid gloves.
A beautiful creation. Scented yellows and spilled tears. Strange at first.
But home is the only option. No one tending her at the store. Mom on the news blubbering about how she only took her eyes off her baby for a split second. Mommy boohoo bullshit! It was a whole 3 minutes. I know. I was watching.

Just Jan said...

There were many rules in John’s life. The one awaiting him when he awoke made him twitchy: Do the laundry or die!

Admittedly, it had been a while since he’d shared this load. He fluffed and folded, considering. Would she have shot him outright? Or killed him in his sleep?

And when had she started wearing so many pink garments? Panties, bras, and even her favorite outfit were all a cheery shade of rose. Everything, in fact, except his new red t-shirt.

There wasn't a rule in the playbook for this. Which is how his wife got a new wardrobe.