Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Forti is 40 flash fiction contest RESULTS

Thanks to all you of you helped Mr. Forti thwart me YET AGAIN.

I'm getting the feeling this is Groundhog Day ... with coyotes

Words I had to look up




Happy Birthday Steve Forti, you word wrangler you.

Year twenty-one of Genghis' reign, Mayan Delegate For-Ti stood in the Khan's yurt seeking an audience to establish trade routes.

(portion of Great Scroll destroyed)

“What does turtle–”

“Tortoise, Great Khan. Sort of a turtle, but land-speed averages 1/3 mile per hour.”

“What does–”

“Turtles are faster.”

“What does–”

“Not that a turtle's worthless, but tortoise's what you want.”


“'Course, given the overland distance from here to Lake Titicaca–”

At the fourth interruption, Genghis Khan graciously ordered Delegate For-Ti beheaded.

Oh no, For-Ti bites the dust!


“Happy birthday Steve Forti, you word wrangler you,” she muttered while sharpening her knife in the dark. “You prompts-splitting poser. Do you cheat at ‘Go fish,’ too?”

“Yur the sort who’d add an ‘e’ to make a tort delicious,” she spat, scraping the blade across her thumbnail, rolling bits of keratin in front of the honed metal. Satisfied that the keen edge could slice spleens like a paddle through Lake Titicaca, she dipped the steel in the feces and liverwort mixture, not her dog of course. Reef dwellers always make their protagonists test for DNA.

“I’m coming for you, Steveareeno,” she said, for the umpteenth time.

There is a certain malevolence here that I hope is fiction!

Thomas Woodward
You think you know. I love that about you. But you don’t.

The trunk rattles. I roll down the window, and blow a stream of smoke between the tinted glass.

“Yes, officer?”


“License and registration.”

I pop the glove compartment effortlessly, humming to myself. Don’t move too fast. Get it sorted.

I pass the noteworthy documents through the gap in the window, and wait as his footsteps fade away. Another feeble attempt emanates from behind the back seat.

The footsteps return. “See that you get that tail light fixed.”

“Yurt, officer,” I say, smiling.
Lovely use of yurt, and oh my the subtle plot here is lovely!

Happy Birthday Steve Forti you word wrangler you

"Come back, Steve. Practicing law is better than living in a blanket fort in a cow field."

"It's a yurt. And no."

"Yang agreed to make you partner."

"Don't want it. I c--ac-achoo!"

"What, you think you're not worthy?"

"Just not that sort of guy."

"Since last week."

"Helluva week."

"Seemed normal to me."

"Sure. I spent 73 hours helping my client steal from his mother."



"Great view here."

"I think those young cowtippers are throwing patties at your Jag. Mahmoud?"

"It's Yang's. Got enough blankets for another fort?"


"I'll take cow-teasers over tortfeasors any day."
Lovely word play here!

Melanie Sue Bowles
Happy Birthday Steve Forti, you word wrangler you!

Many years ago, I stumbled across this blog. Although I was sort of nervous, I decided to enter a flash fiction contest. Torture. The following day, reading through the other entries, I thought: "Oh man, who's this Forti dude. He read the rules wrong. He's gonna be DQ'd. He's all over the place, splitting prompt words into two or three other words. Poor guy."

Turns out it was I who read the rules wrong. The word wrangling was allowed. And I'm not worthy to even stand in the shadow of Steve Forti's Thesaurus. I'll be in Titicaca living in a yurt. Where you can smell the kale fields of Carkoon.
I myself have often wondered who that Forti dude is.

Colin Smith
Happy Birthday Steve Forti! :)

“You word wrangler, you!”

I inwardly grimaced at his tortured prose, an assortment of non sequiturs, mixed metaphors, and emotive misspellings mashed into a mess of less-than-thought-provoking ideas.

“This effort is worthy of The Times!”

A useful rag, as my hamster can attest.

“It… I ca… can hardly…” I passed him the tissue box. He took one.

“I especially liked the line, ‘Y’urt my feels, buh I don care; like Michael Jackson, I’ll be there.’”

“Th… thanks,” he sniffed.

“Excellent work, George,” I said. “Welcome to Hallmark.” My cheeks flushed. “And tell your mother I said hello.”
I don't quite get the punchline here of tell your mother hello.

Megan V
Happy Birthday Steve Forti you word wrangler you

“Lordy Lordy Look Who’s Forty”

“Can it be?”

“You know I swore he—“

“Ran off to build the perfect yurt?”

“Pfft. All he’d manage is a pile of dirt.”

“He’d sort it out. It’s the Forti of forts.”

“I should have lent him T.A.R.D.I.S.”

“Your tortoise?”

“What about cake?”

“I guess we can manage it.”

“If none of Mel’s horses or dogs take a whack at it.”

“He’s in Titicaca, we can’t hand deliver.”

“Amy can sail there.”

“We can send a great swimmer!”

*chews cake* “Wort?”

“Who else but the shark?”

Happy Birthday Steve with some Reefy snark.

Very meta! Those are always fun.

Just Jan
Happy Birthday, Steve Forti, you word wrangler, you!

That was the sign in the living room. The music? Top forty, of course.

In the kitchen, I tried to recall if Steve’s favorite pasta was tortellini with cashew or the cavatappi he ate when he lived in the yurt. I resorted to mac and cheese, a perennial crowd pleaser.

Lastly, the gift--something for a writer without pets. The Titicaca water frog had died in transit, but I’d made a backup plan, one with significant teeth. It wasn’t amenable to wrapping and needed daily steeping. I knew Steve would appreciate it.

I’m so glad Janet accepted my invitation.

I have a bad feeling about this party!

Michael Seese
Happy Birthday Steve Forti, you word wrangler you.

PS: You're still a kid.

"What happened?" asks the old man.

One minute I'm playing in sofa-cushion forts. The next I'm plying assorted civil torts.

One minute I'm getting under girl's skirts. The next I'm fretting over my net worth.

One minute, I'm a hip rock-and-roll singer. The next, shaky hands slip a ring on her finger.

One minute I'm scolded for running wild. The next I'm holding my child.

One minute I'm meditating in a yurt, alone. The next I'm evaluating nursing homes.

Someone I don't recognize stares back from the mirror.

The boy in the fort whispers, "I wish I were still here."

Jennifer Rand
Happy Birthday Steve Forti, you word wrangler you!

We'd left the yurt at dawn. The end of a conservation expedition that began at Titicaca. The final prize: locating the Fernandina Giant Tortoise not seen since 1906. The trek was grueling, our guide not the sort to inspire trust. But fortune was with us today as we stood over the telltale feces and bedding. It was all worth it. We were close.

Suddenly, the shimmer of a magnificent shell in the distance. "There she is!"

A gun at my head shocks me from my elation. Eyeing our guide, I notice with dismay a fashion choice I'd overlooked--his tortoiseshell-rimmed sunglasses.

Nice twist ending there!

Peggy Rothschild
Happy Birthday Steve Forti you word wrangler you

"Fortify the fortress, Yurtle!" Queen Requin strode the ramparts.

"No one's approaching, your Worthiness."

"Bah! Before you know it, Forti will write his way into the castle. That's the danger of a Forti Sortie."

Drawing his weapon, the sentry tried to still his trembling hand. "Will it be bad?"

"Pure torture. That man's inkwell of evil is deeper than Lake Titicaca." The Queen glared. "I'll be below mustering the troops."

The empty desert shimmered. Was this Forti a sorcerer, twisting words and creating chaos wherever he appeared? Was Forti's pen mightier than Yurtle's sword?

The sentry abandoned his post.

Yertle the Turtle was (and still is) one of my favorites in the Seussian canon.
I can (and will!) recite it at the drop of a hat, usually after three slugs of gin.

The danger of a Forti Sorti should be taught at West Point!

This is hilariously wonderful

Happy Birthday, Steve Forti, you word wrangler you.

Once when young, sunrise over Everest, to salle forth on the first sortie from base camp was worth life itself. To crawl from nylon yurt and sleeping bag sans oxygen was torturous and yet, exhilarating.

Unlike today, twenty years his senior, I search for the world’s greatest wordsmith. A man to atharthi the QotKW herself.

Northwest from La Paz, I trek, into the Incan primordial homeland.

I find him, girded loins and shirtless, seeking enlightenment on the shore of Lake Titicaca.

Responding to my prompt, he emotes, “Pondering the transmogrification of ‘Shitty Breast.’ Why?”

I demure, to Forti, extraordinaire.
the transmogrification of ‘Shitty Breast’ is a phrase that needs to be used much more often.
(and yes it took me three passes to get it!)

(is demure the right word here?)

Steve Forti

EYES: She looks amazing.

NOSE: Smells divine, too.

LIPS: Her kisses are sweet.

STOMACH: Oof, shouldn’t have had that dairy.

TONGUE: It was delicious, though.

(CENSOR): That was my call. She wanted ice cream. It was for the greater good.

BOWELS: But now I gotta go. I’m contorting over here.

BRAIN: Hold it, dammit. But no more dairy. Ur tapped out. Got it. I ca-

CARDIAC SYSTEM: Rerouting blood pressure.

(CENSOR): Thanks chief.

BOWELS: Show or tell. One is inevitable.

HEART: Hey, I feel something.

(CENSOR): Nope, that’s just me.

BOWELS: This is it. It’s happening!

(CENSOR): Sorry, me again.
It took me two passes to get what (Censor) was.
I'm still laughing.

Timothy Lowe
Boldt Castle is a fort near me? he says, Googling furiously.

Better searches appear in the Google scroll bar:

Bending latticework for a yurt

Best substitute for St. John’s wort

Boiling better tortellini

Birthplace of the Incas

Building a weird-ass consortium with a cadre of pretty cool like-minded souls

Best ways to wish a forty-year-old a happy birthday Steve Forti, you word wrangler you!

This is lovely.

John Davis Frain
Merry Birthday, Steve Forti, you OLD word wrangler, you!

“Show me yours, I’ll show you mine,” Steve said. They sat in the yurt-cum-bounce house.

Magic Molly grinned, performed her trick in slo-mo, and displayed the quarter in the crook of her elbow. “Voila. How it’s done. Now your turn, Mr. Word Contortionist.”

“Never thought you’d show.”

“Or tell? Sorry, deal’s a deal.” She squeaked her red nose. “Gimme your secret.”

He pointed toward the woman sorting balloon animals.

“She’s your ghostwriter?” Molly’s eyes blinked uncontrollably. “Mrs. F-F-F-F-F-Forti?”


“A cause for celebration is more accurate,” Molly said. “Yowza! I’m trading kiddie carnivals—no offense, Mr. Forty—for flash fiction.”

Mr. Forty! I wish I'd thought of that!

Marie McKay
Happy Birthday Steve Forti you word wrangler, you.

The Yurt was haunted. Ghosts took up residence anywhere. I once ate a haunted torte (for the purposes of exorcism, of course.)

The Yurt owners wanted things sorted. They'd make it worth my while, Iet me glamp there through winter. It was a swanky place near Titicaca.

I'd used my most trusted method: expulsion by incessant punning. Yet this ghoul wasn't for shifting; had the zip on the door shoot up faster than the hand in 'Carrie.'

With a warm bed at stake, I upped my game and said: "That's some serious in-tent."

And with that I had possession.

expulsion by incessant punning!

Happy Birthday Steve! Fortiy! :O

U word wrangler, your sort is rare. Elegant. Nefertitic. A cause for celebration. And a toast! Or too.

Forty. Two. Sorry.

Thanks! Drink after it works, K?

It didn’t wort yet? Thought 4 sure the yurt would grub her attention. Never seen a boat yurt b4.

Oh it did.

But now I have a shark in a yurt instead of a net.

Steve!!!! U OK????


Think so. You should have seen her. Bombarded me w books. Got away.

:( So tgat toast. Kale juice?

Yeah. Back to catching an agent the regular way.

Good birthday though. Forty books!

Love this phrase: But now I have a shark in a yurt instead of a net

Happy Birthday Steve Forti, you word wrangler.

You bury words like bodies flung out of an ink-trunk (tic)--hoping nobody notices or thinks to question you (toc)--even as your sinister parse-motor thunders past, leaving gory urtexts quivering at our feet. We gape (tic) at each perfectly executed/executing roar (is it turning off? or turning on? are we next?), unsure whether to feel angry at (toc) or unworthy of witnessing.

Still I claw at the words, serifs and shoulders and beaks leaking across my hands, struggling to salvage the remnants.

I can’t.

I (tic), academy-like, can only annotate the devastation in your wake.

And summon dragons.

gorgeous, just gorgeous writing here.

“There’s a yeti prowling the yurts.”

“Should we retreat to the Karakorum fort?” asked Svetlana.

“I’m not the sort to turn tail,” Maxim retorted.

“I’m not a worrywort, but you weren’t at Dyatlov. I saw what happened, shredded tents, mauled bodies.”

“I thought that was tribesmen, or an avalanche.”

“Nothing human or natural did that damage.”

From behind a snowdrift QZX147 snickered and nudged her partner, Phil.

“They always blame yetis. We left mothership radiation, and they still blame the equivalent of vegan dancing bears.”

“Suckers. Let’s rev up and prank the Pacific Northwest. My turn to wear the suit.”

This explains every questions I ever had about Himself, the Sassiest of Quatches. 

There were some very fine entries this week. A lot of you really got clever with those prompts.

But in the end, it was clear. Steve Forti takes the prize. Thwarted yet again.

Steve, don't worry about sending me your mailing address.
I'm coming over with your prize. I'm bringing it by bus.


Colin Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Smith said...

Nicely done, Mr. Forti. Congrats and happy birthday (again)! And well done to the other finalists and entrants. :)

As for my piece... I bold-typed the first line, and put a smiley at the end, to try to indicate that it had nothing to do with the story. Does that help? Thanks for including me nevertheless. :)

Steve Forti said...

Youz guys and gals are awesome. I'm very happy to be part of this community, and honored that you even know who I am, let alone accept me enough for a contest in my name. Brightens my day every time.

I suppose 40 doesn't feel any different than 39, but there's still a little mental adjustment. Thank you all so much for the birthday wishes. They really meant a lot.

And Janet, if that snake is coming, I'm changing my address!

Katja said...

Congrats Forty Forti. And happy birthday (I did say that on Twitter to the group of Reeders already but I'm sure you don't know.)

I admit that I think I understood what CENSOR was straight away. And the entire piece. I also admit I would have expected a comment like "not quite a story". So I'm a bit puzzled.

Theresa said...

Double congratulations, Steve!

Kregger said...

Hey, it's not every day Steve turns Forti.

I concur with Ms. Reid's decision, but please deliver the snake.

Athwart is a word used in sailing, athwart(i) is my Steve Forti-fication of the word.

No one who has ever met me would confuse me with adjective demure or the verb I turned it into. (Another Fortification?)

Great contest, as usual. This was a little harder to write as the seagulls kept attacking me from athartship and attempted to dunk my phone in Lake Erie.


Just Jan said...

Congratulations, Mr. Forti, for a well deserved win!

Timothy Lowe said...

Congrats, Forti! On the win and on the decades! I definitely toasted a few times in your honor.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

That was a ton of fun... Congratulations SF!

Colin Smith said...

I have updated the Contest Spreadsheet in the Treasure Chest.

Interesting to note: this was the 150th Writing Contest.

Janet: You may have been thinking this already, but perhaps the next contest could be in Kari Dell's honor? Maybe with a cowboy romance theme? I do not write either Westerns or Romance. I have Lonesome Dove on my TBR list, and when I get to it, that'll be the first Western I've ever read. That said, and maybe because of that, I think it would be an interesting challenge... :)

JanR said...

Happy 40th Steve!! And congratulations! You are a master of structure and form, with a wicked sense of fun to boot :)

Thank you so much Janet for the mention, not to mention for hosting these exercises. I loved all the stories. Here are a few shout-outs: Matt Krizan for “urtext of my life” and Peggy Rothschild for “write his way into the castle” and flashfriday for ink-trunks and parse-motors. french sojourn for an evocative line (“time for their sorrow or temptation didn’t exist”) and Michael Seese for provoking thought in a very birthday-apt way. travelkat and NLiu for fun storytelling!

Lennon Faris said...

Congratulations, Steve and everyone else! Well done.

And Steve, happy 40th! hope Janet's present gets lost in the mailbus.

Fearless Reider said...

Congratulations and a belated happy birthday to to Steve Forti, you word wrangler, you! Hope you enjoy your slithery prize and your Forti-first year. Sorry I couldn't play along this time, but apparently I slipped into a time warp in 2002 and suddenly found myself delivering my youngest to college last weekend. Don't blink!

Thomas Woodward said...

Congrats Steve on the win and happy birthday!

Karen McCoy said...

Congrats, Mr. Forti! My 40th loometh in October, and seeing you wear it so well gives me hope. :)

Beth Carpenter said...

I couldn't find time to write a story, but happy birthday and congratulations on your winning story to the best darn word wrangler I know. Congrats to all the finalists, as well. Such fun!

Beth Carpenter said...

BTW, I thought "Tell our mother I said hello," meant Mom had gotten him the job writing greeting cards.

Colin Smith said...

Beth: You've as good as got it. The flushed face was supposed to hint at something a little more illicit, but that's essentially the gist. Well done! :)

french sojourn said...

Congrats! Forti... 40 ain't nothin'

Happy Birthday Steve, I hope this is your best year yet!

Well done everyone, cheers Hank.

Brigid said...

Congratulations twice, Steve! For the contest and the milestone. I turned 30 a day after you turned 40; it did my heart good to see you being ribbed as a youngster. I hear every decade is better than the last.

Splendid set of entries this week. I especially enjoyed Marie's.

Writer of Wrongs said...

Happy forty, Forti!
Some fascinating entries (as always). But I confess I do not know, and could not find, the word atharthi. Three dictionaries and Google didn’t help. Anyone willing to define?
And Colin, I love the idea of a Kari Dell memorial flash fiction.

Megan V said...

Loved all of the stories but I Sam really just glad that Steve is a part of this community. Happy Birthday again Steve!

Marie McKay said...

Congratulations, Steve. What a great story. Really clever and brilliantly executed. And Happy Birthday!
Thanks for the lovely comment, Janet. Thanks for the shout out, Brigid. Your word play was excellent!

Kregger said...

Writer of Wrongs,
My bad!
That's what happens when I post on my phone whilst battling rogue gybes and Lemmie, the Lake Erie Sea Monster.
I inadvertently included an (h) at the end of athwart(i). Pardon the confusion.
I guess it's like the extra (l) in the spoonerism Flumb Duck, which describes me to a (T).
Thank heavens this wasn't a query!
Oh wait, I did that too.

Steve Forti said...

Thanks again everyone. You're the bestest.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Congratulations, Steve, for the win and the milestone. And congrats to everyone else for those amazing entries!
And Colin, that contest idea is a good one...

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Congrats Steve Forti on winning and a birthday! Forties are good years.

Such fun entries. Thoroughly enjoyed reading through these.

Jennifer Rand said...

Congratulations on the win, Steve!!And happy birthday!!

John Davis Frain said...

Well done, Old Man, you word wrangler. I'm sure you've been in bed for four hours by now. Tomorrow you can start complaining about your toenail. Nobody'll listen, but don't let that stop you.

NLiu said...

Congrats, Mr Forti, and many happy returns! I read yesterday that the average age of a first-time NYT best-selling author is 48, so you still have a few years to crank out that magnum opus!