Monday, October 19, 2020

Flash fiction contest preliminary results

You all were in rare form this weekend!

It was a compelling array of entries and I am still not sure who will take home the prize.

Words I had to look up

dysoxic-Ash Complin
desoxy-Tess Rook

xanthic-Megan V


Here are the entries that stood out for me.

Steve Forti

“Don’t be so xenophobic. Turn off Fox. Not everyone has to be like you.” 
“I get that, but there are some things you just cannot accept. Things that are morally wrong. We need a good cultural abluent to cleanse these people from our country.”

“Calm down, Earl. They’re not committing some official protocol deviation.”

“They are! And they’re spreading, like some mindless hive response. It’s sickening. This isn’t the toilet paper direction debate, or pronouncing bah-gle, or leaving one second on the microwave. No, I will not accept it. This goes too far. Nobody should bite string cheese like that!”

 We just don't use the word abluent often enough!

french sojourn

A cold wind blew through the galley as Jake closed the roof hatch. He shivered and checked the weather radar again, “Goodbye blue skies.”

Pounding on the bulkhead, he yelled, “Sammy, I’m gonna need help reefin’ the main.” He heard movement below and drew a filleting knife from a drawer.

The Pacific crossing had taken its toll aboard the Carbon Foxhole, tempers flared daily.

Sammy appeared, wearing his blue Yankee’s hat, and said, “C'mon Masshole!” as he headed out to the cockpit.

Jake followed and drew up behind him, sliced his throat, then pushed him overboard. “Now…How bout’ them Sox?”

Why a respectable Yankees fan would get on a boat with a Sox fan is of course asking me to suspend too much disbelief.

Timothy Lowe
So much depends upon the
Shivering shadows

So much depends upon
Oxazepam in the morning
Clozapine at night
Beds unmade
In the evening shade
My mother’s
Shivering smile

So much depends upon
That fucking word
The not-heard
Memory lost,
Years spent
By gutless words

(You never heard) like


So much depends upon
My father
His oxygen taken
Stolen like breath
From a


This is extrordianary, and all the more so for evoking William Carlos Williams.

Ash Complin
She entered the party, and the room went dysoxic. Her cold, somber expression froze each guest as she stalked past them like a fox pursuing a hen.

The victim stood wordlessly in the back of the hall, watching her approach. The once-blaring televisions on the wall seemed to quiet.

When she reached him, he felt a shiver go down his spine, and his blue tie seemed to tighten itself. At that moment, he would rather have stared Death in the face. Death's words would have been more pleasant.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Biden," she lamented. "We've lost."

Well, this is just plain old horror.
But that phrase "his blue tie seemed to tighten itself" is masterful.

Brent Salish

Another jolt to Alison’s hypothalamus. Muscles contracted. Tendons twitched.

And again, her head clamped, eyes fixed on the fox.

Sweet, loving silver fox. Luxuriant fur, two white paws.

Alison shouted, screamed blue murder, cried, peed.

The hard-eyed man set the animal in a carrier, fingered a switch.

Alison braced, but the apparatus released. She turned, vomited.

Her mind reached for dear Sox, her gold-eyed familiar - and she doubled over, retched, drooled bile onto the kitchen floor.

"Shiversion therapy." Stepdaddy as scold, his demonic voice and Jameson breath in Alison's ear. "Ain't gonna be no witchin' in my house."

I have a feelling this is really good, but I don't quite get it.

Madeline Mora-Summonte
She is his oxygen. His passion. His obsession. She just doesn't know it. Yet.

He is the shiver down her spine. The shadow sliding behind her on the sidewalk. The sly fox slinking in the woods near her house. The presence she senses but does not see.

He daydreams. His knife traces the cold blue roadmap of her veins. He licks the hot red river it leaves behind.

She pays attention now. Looks over her shoulder. Watches out her window.

He has gotten sloppy. She has gotten ready.

He just doesn't know it. Yet.

Utterly brilliant.

It's not quite a story, but this is stunning writing.

The car roared as it sped off. It had a foxy sound, she had to give him that, deep enough to give her shivers unrelated to the cold. And that turn radius was so...xyresic. Still, the neon blue muscle car made him look like he was compensating for something. He probably wasn't taking her rejection well. If he could just trust her, he'd see they'd all be happier this way.

Sighing, she shifted into the highest gear.

This is a very clever twist!

Tess Rook
Returning is easy, the blood-scent of the copper plated doorknob pulling me back to the cold chasm. Out of the blue-fir copse.

At the crest of the hill I stop. There is a light in the house. I didn’t leave one on when I left. The shadow of a fox skirts around me. A wide berth given.

Halloween adrenaline junkies inside, probably. Shivering teenagers, pushed to bravery by dares and desoxy chemical courage. But it’s a fool’s errand. I have never seen a ghost in the house, and I have lived there for over 300 years.
I love this!
What a great ending line!

Marie McKay
I've to feed the fish. Twice a day as instructed- the instructions are specific and numerous. I head next door, shivering, nauseous, oxygen overload, overbreathing. I should never have agreed to this. The fish needs a certain light, certain temperature, certain .... I open the bag.Throw the fox in the tank. The blue, cold water blushes with frenzy. But it's the speed that's unnerving. I stand back. Wait.

The fish nods. I've done well this time. But his planet-sized eyes say more. More.

This line is perfect: The blue, cold water blushes with frenzy. 


Faux fur sox and fox fur stoles held October chills at bay. Oh, not outside under skies blued with unshed sleet, but in Gabrielle’s beloved rent-controlled studio. But barely. Her nose never got warm until the heat came on mid-November.

Shivering substituted for gym workouts, fasciculating muscles generating a slight thermal bump, from freezing to merely cold.

But 2020, an anomaly, pushed Gabrielle to act. No more. You hear that everyone? No more.

Home, working furiously. Fueled by an inner kerosene lantern. Fingers flashing, fashioning.

Flannel, fleece, folded three-ply, bilateral ear straps.

Not Covid mask. Nose mask.

Not rebellion.


this is brilliant: Faux fur sox and fox fur stoles
So is this: under skies blued with unshed sleet

I don't quite the get the story though...

Colin Smith

I thought Bob was the perfect guest to take to the party. Smart, funny, friendly—never cruel or harsh. I’ve reconsidered my opinion. He was so xenophobic. Cold to everyone. Just sat in the corner, Bluetooth earphones in, staring shell-shocked like a cornered fox.

“Bob?” I said, when I finally got his attention.

“SHSHHSH!” he said. “Don’t let them see me!”

I started to object, but he glared at me.

His plan seemed to work. All night I tried to introduce people to him. They would look at Bob, look at me, and smile. As if there was nothing there.

ohhh, this is brilliant.
Love love love that twist.


-It is cold for octobre, he says.

-Yeah, I say, tugging my ice-blue scarf tighter. Perfect for pie-baking.

-Pas pour moi, he says. Without my gym, I must avoid the carbs.

-Sorry, I say, checking my ID for the hundredth time and scooting forward.

-I still walk, he says. The mask cannot stop me.

-Stops me sometimes, I say.

-Not today, he says.

-Not today, I agree.

Time passes comfortably, despite the toes numbing in my fuzzy orange fox sox.

-It is cold, he says, shivering.

Ahead the doorway yawns; something sparks.

-Only outside, I say, and we step in.

Given who wrote this, I'm sure it's brilliant but I don't quite get it.
I thought maybe they were going to vote, but the French threw me off.

Jennifer Rand

She shivers, not from the cold, but from the life-affirming moment. Everest's icy blue summit. She takes a cheeky thumbs-up photo and dances a jig.

Upon her descent she stops short. The queue down is a hundred climbers deep. Her guide's panicked words sink in. He'd turned back 800 feet before the top. "We can't continue-the wait's too long!"

She'd refused to turn back. Now she's trapped in the death zone running out of oxygen. SHIT!

She pens a note:

...forgive me, my darlings. OXOX

While she's wedged in line, her life and note drift away unnoticed.



"Cold blue shiver, please."

The barman raised an eyebrow. "Okay."
She watched him pour blue curacao and… mint syrup?? into a pint glass.
She sighed.
So, this was Oxford.
She liked the lectures but the rest? Disappointing. She'd been here seven months and not discovered one magic portal.
No wonder everyone drank.
The cocktail arrived: looked exciting. Tasted of fox piss.
But when the barman turned aside, she saw it, behind him: the door.
Ancient wood, rimed with ice. Carved with mysterious figures.
She leapt the bar, brimming with electric certainty--
It was a freezer.

brilliant line: brimming with electric certainty--

I'm utterly torn between several entries.

Who do you favor?

Who did I overlook?

What did I fail to understand?

Updated results later in the day. 

Update on the update: well it's been a a week!

sorry about that. This past week was one of those "oh wait, I think I'm sick, I'm sleeping 20 hours a day" but you don't feel bad, you just can't get out of bed.

Well, I could work for about three hours, then it was back to bed! You know you're not well, and not just lazy when getting back in bed feels so wonderful you wonder why you ever got out.

Contest results will be posted on a separate post.

Link here

Thanks for your patience!


french sojourn said...

Thank you for the nod, although I've never met ... "a respectable Yankees fan," lol.

KDJames, I loved your line... "She spun lies about truths she couldn't reveal." Reminded me of Costello's "grip like vice", very nice work, love the juxt.

Good luck choosing, there were so many great finalists and entries over all.

nightsmusic said...

Oh, good luck with these!

Madeline Mora-Summonte and Tess Rook were my favs along with Timothy Lowe's which was brilliant and heartbreaking.

Too hard to choose just one.

Steve Forti said...

Agree with Hank. "Respectable Yankee fans" don't exist.

NLiu said...

I feel like Mr Lowe kicked the ball not only out of the lot but out of the neighbourhood this week! That was some writing!

Think Brent Salish's involves a witch with a fox familiar being subjected to some very unlicensed aversion therapy by her drunk, witch-hating father. And RosannaM's appears to concern creating a solution to a cold nose (a nose mask! LIKE!) But I may be incorrect.

Fun! Congrats to all.

Just Jan said...

Tess Rook gets my vote. Loved it since I first read it in the comments on Saturday!

Good luck to everyone!

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

A lot of really good stuff. But I'm going with Tess Rook...

RosannaM said...

Just catching up after a quick weekend trip for hugs and kisses!

NLiu was right about my character's cold nose. Also wanted to convey that the no heat apartment was about the last straw for 2020 and she was taking back control. Wrote it in a hotel room in between kisses and hugs. (G-rated version!)

I agree with Steve it is a crime to bite string cheese. Sadly, I did just that this weekend. Seems peeling the strings while driving is right up there with texting.

Some great entries this time around, but I am partial to the Halloween ghostie.

John Davis Frain said...

Well, while I struggled to put "sox" into a plausible sentence (much less, a spellbinding one), I made the mistake of reading some of the early entries. As soon as Tim Lowe blew me out the door, I trashed my sox and went back to my WIP. If you can't improve on something, work on something new, right?

Some superb entries, hats off to y'all.

Ash Complin said...

I've bitten into string cheese before, and my toddler yelled at me that I was doing it wrong. It seems that biting into string cheese really does go against the natural order.

I've learned from my mistake. Please don't ablate me.

I really liked Steve Forti's and Tess Rook's submissions. It's hard to pick just one.

Also, thank you for calling a phrase I wrote "masterful." I'm going to feel heady for a month.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...

Tim Lowe's entry was stunning, atmospheric.

Tess Rook's ending was breathtaking.

Also loved Ash Complin's dystopian story lol.

Brigid said...

An amazing set of entries this week. What a pleasure to read. NLiu's spoke to my inner Narnian the most, but Tess Rook made my stoic husband laugh aloud.

Fearless Reider said...

I'm so glad it's not my job to pick a winner from these outstanding entries.

I loved the prompts and I dithered around with a few ideas -- too political, too obscure, too obvious, not a story -- until just after midnight, swathed in flannel and fleece, I'm drifting toward dreamland when a killer idea flashes across my brain pan. No problem! I'll type it up when my wee-hours insomnia comes calling at precisely 3:49am. Wait, what is this strange light creeping into the room? Holy REM cycles, it's 7:46! Central Time! I fling off the fleeces and the flannel, wake up the dog for moral support, crack open the laptop and kick it into high gear. Type, type, delete, delete, check word count, delete, delete, type, delete... 7:57 (Central Time!) and still seven words over the line... should just check the comments real quick to see what everyone else has been up to to... and my killer idea is looking barely lethal.

Laptop snaps shut. Hello, fleece. Hello, flannel. It's 26 degrees and I need RosannaM's nose-warmer. Ya snooze, ya lose, I know... but if there were a prize for heroic non-effort, I'd be in the running... or in the snoozing. Congrats, everyone!

Janet Reid said...

So nice that Hank and Steve will be able to keep each other company on Carkoon.

Karen McCoy said...

Woo, that's a tough pick. I have to go with NLiu, though--clever, with an ode to fantasy without being one.

Jennifer Rand said...

Tess Rook and Madeline Mora-Summonte are my top picks. Both knocked my sox off!
There's so much to be learned from all the entries.
Thanks again, Janet, for keeping us challenged and entertained.

Kate Larkindale said...

They're all really good, but I was particularly taken by Timothy Lowe's entry. Good luck with the judging!

Rachel Neumeier said...

Timothy Lowe's cold blue shivering smile got me. I had to read that poem several times before I could go on.

french sojourn said...

Steve, we can take the catamaran, just have to wash down the stern with some coka-cola and hose it off.

I would go with Tess, Marie, or Colin. All great, but these got a chuckle out of me.

Tess Rook said...

I loved reading all of them, but if forced to choose only one I would vote for NLiu's entry, which made me laugh out loud!

Hats off to everyone!

KDJames said...

Blogger ate my comment, the little glutton. Trying again.

So many good entries here, it's hard to choose just one. But Timothy Lowe's was the one I read twice and that really stayed with me long after I read it. Elegant and evocative.

Hank, what a lovely compliment! Thank you. This one was an ugly struggling beast that refused to cooperate, so the kind words are much appreciated.

John, I'm with you. Almost didn't post mine, but figured *someone* has to bring down the curve in this master class. :)

AJ Blythe said...

Great entries as always. I have to say, I really liked Just Jan's entry because it made me laugh.

Megan V said...

Lowe has my vote!

Richelle Elberg said...

Just fantastic entries this week. Wow. I think I'd choose Timothy Lowe, but also loved Tess Rook. And all of them really. Such great talent here!!