Monday, November 30, 2020

Snot Green Couch Flash Fiction Contest Results

Curt David

    2020 was almost over. The election? Still not decided.

    "Let's pick randomly," Ms. Bell suggested.

    "Liberty, no. We need to all agree; need to find someone to join our team," Uncle Sam retorted.

    "Nothing positive happened this year," Mr. Baldy squawked.

    "His lackadaisical comment aside, does anyone have someone to nominate?" Ms. Flag asked.

    "The winner will join the ranks of us quintessential symbols of the United States of America!" Statue of Liberty exclaimed. "Who exhibited such bravery, heroism, compassion, and strength this past year?"

    National Anthem thought a moment, then belted out, "What about Front Line Workers?"

    Unanimous decision.

 

Love this concept a lot!

 

Craig F

    The morning broke queasy, punctuated with pieces of a dream in a snot green medium.

    Pulling the slack from some remaining brain cells, the green crap became a sofa

    The glass of tea on the floor wasn’t tea. Suppressing a gag, I saw flecks of something like rust on my hands.

    Struggling to the bath my eyes popped open, then shut, then wouldn’t pass a squint. In the tub was the dream, in pieces; that wasn’t rust on my hands.

 

The morning broke queasy is a perfect phrase.

 

Marie McKay

    She keeps the screams in the cushions, the strain in the sofa seams, the tears in the tea cups, the cracks in the broken plates, the pain in the squint of the photo frame, the shame in dark corners; sadness in cupboards, dismay in closed doors, sadness in blankets, wounds in loose clothing; her courage in the chink of the curtain, her hope in the green of the trees. Her plans in the blue of beyond, her mettle in a suitcase.

 

and, Mari McKay saunters in and drops perfection on the desktop.
This is just plain amazing.

It's not quite a story but who the hell cares.


Jennifer Rand

    All she has are suspicions.

    Her husband and her best friend, Paige.

    How long?

    Confronting them would be messy. Paige's son, Jimmy, is her own son's best friend.

    With tea in hand and a desire to deny, she joins the teenagers in the rec room. The boys lie sprawled on the sofa watching the game.

    "Who you rooting for?" she asks.

 

    "Panthers."

 

    "Which team is that?"

 

    "Green jerseys," Jimmy says.

 

    "They're blue, dumbass!" her son chides.

 

    The words thunder in her brain.

 

    She steps back slack-jawed and squints to hide her tears.

 

    "Hey, mom! Jimmy's colorblind just like dad."

 

oh my godiva.

 

    Mallory Love

 

    “It’s further than it looks, old sport, but it’s always there."

 

    I followed his gaze out to the slack water, steamed with fog. Squinting, I could see the green light in the distance.

 

    So familiar, yet different.

 

    This time I didn’t tell him I was a time traveler or that I had lived many variations of this moment. I didn’t say that sometimes the light was red or blue. I didn’t warn him of the fate that awaited him, because he was always succumbing to it. Overdosing, hanging, drowning.

 

    The only thing that ever remained the same was the dream.

 

It took me three reads to get this.

How about you?

 


Michael Seese

    "I can make you a star, sweetie. But first..."

 

    "Whatever it takes," she teased, lying back on the sofa, flattening it


    "Cut!" I yelled.

 

    "I simply can't work like this," Rex whined, throwing up his tiny arms.

    I agree not everything had gone as planned. Indeed, this quintessential labor of love of mine appeared headed for divorce. On paper, it looked perfect; in reality, it's lacking a plot, competent actors, and passion.

 

    "Perhaps I could lose weight," Vela offered.

 

    Not before the asteroid hits, I thought. Some movies simply should not be made. Apparently "Jurassic Tart" is one of them.

 

After I stop laughing, I will be able to tell you how much I love Michael Seese's pun-ch lines.


 

Amanda

 

    Me: So, 2020, coronavirus has kinda stolen your thunder like the green grinch stole Christmas. Wanna give me a gift early and share what the tealeaves say for 2021?

 

    2020: What’s the fun in that?

 

    Me: Gotcha. But a lot of people would appreciate it.

 

    2020: Sorry, no.

 

    Me: Holding your cards close, huh?

 

    2020: I’ve done a good job so far, haven’t I?

 

    Me: Yeah, but you haven’t trumped us, yet. How about a squint at next month?

 

    2020: Patience...

 

    Me: ...and maybe 2021 will cut us some slack.

 

    2020: Hindsight is 20/20!

 

oh god, this is right up there in the Punchine Pantheon!

 

Colin Smith

    I don’t normally do art, but Rob insisted. Said my brain was slack and I needed a fresh perspective on life. That’s what friends are for.

    So they say.

    So, fact is, I went. Not that I agree. Not for any reason other than to placate Rob.

 

    It was all weird, but the weirdest was the crowd around the last painting. Their scowling faces seemed so angry.

    The painting was a mess. Lines and colors that had no cohesion.

    Just like me, I thought.

    And then I saw the title:

    “Sea with Squint Tea Ice”

 

    And it changed my life.


What is it about this week that you're all playing with these punch lines so deftly?

It took me two reads to get this, but I finally did.

 

Brigid


    Welcome to the Greenfield Library Online Catalog: Place Holds.

 

    03/13/2020 Requests:

    Quintessential Kale Cookbook 978-1510738164

    12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos 978-0141988511

 

    04/02/2020 Requests:

    Slack: Getting Past Burnout 978-0767907699

    Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea 978-1416954125

 

    05/11/2020 Requests:

    What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters 978-0399581892

 

    05/31/2020 Requests:

    Didn't See That Coming 978-0063010529

    Personal Bankruptcy Laws for Dummies 978-0471773801

    Unf*ck Yourself 978-1473671560

 

    09/18/2020 Request:

    So Far from God 978-0393326932

 

    11/03/2020 Requests:

    A Promised Land 978-1524763169

    Error: Not yet available.

 

    11/30/2020 Requests:

    How to Build a Time Machine 978-1250024220

    No Time Like the Future 978-1250265616

 

We need a non-fiction category in these contests!

 

KDJames

 

    If she tilts her head and squints, she sees it clearly:

 

    The odd green that never matched anything

    (they were young, hopeful, it was on sale)

    Firm cushions supporting breastfeeding babies

    Increasingly stained, kids climbing, jumping, napping

    Snuggling close with books

    Remnants of spit-up, grubby fingers, embedded pet fur

    Cushions sagging, muffling tear-filled nights

    Waiting up, corners worn thin as slackened faith

    Relegated to the playroom, still no match

    Seldom used now, kids grown, moved out

    All things have their time

    Some linger

    Inexplicably

 

    Careful, she tells the junk removers, that sofa is far heavier than it looks.

 

The only thing missing here is the residue from the week I spent on the SGS with the second worse case of bronchitis I've ever had.  Couldn't sleep lying down at all, so on the couch. I'd put on DVDs of The Wire, a show I know so well I can nap through an episode and not be lost in the slightest.

 

I think I watched all five seasons at least three times that week.

 

By the time I could stagger down to the trash bins, I had three 13-gallon bags filled with used Kleenex

 

 

C. Dan Castro

 

    The massive, blood red demon squashed my sofa. Despite log-like fingers, he picked up his teacup and sipped.

 

    He stopped, phosphorescent green eyes squinting at the ceramic.

 

    I quavered. "N-needs sugar?"

 

    "Tea's excellent. Almost...heavenly." He seized the teapot. Guzzled it. Belched. "Your soul's due. Today."

 

    "But...ten years..."

 

    "Millennials. Trade for a fortune, then slack off ten years."

 

    "I didn't. I researched. Contract expires if the demon expires."

 

    "Oh?"

 

    "And if you drank holy water..."

 

    The demon looked at the teapot.

 

    And exploded.

 

    Ugh. Sulfurous demon guts everywhere. But I can pay someone to clean.

 

    I've got a fortune.

 

I'm so glad I have a vial of holy water from Lourdes.

Who knows when a demon may show up!

 

Casual-T

    "I quite agree," nodded Watson. "So far, the experience has been less than convincing. I'd even say it's lacking its quintessental aspects." He passed the steaming beverage under his nose, once more.

 

    "Indubitably, my dear Watson," the master detective replied, putting down his own cup. "When it comes to the great British tradition of infusing hot water with subtle flavor, it is every gentleman's honor-bound duty to not short-change himself."

 

    "Quite so," the doctor confirmed eagerly, walking toward the door of the scarlet study. "I shall teach the new cook how to prepare a decent cup of coffee, at once."

 

Nice twist!

 

french sojourn

 

    He placed the old green book back on the table beside the sofa. “Le Masque de la mort rouge,” talk about one a day plus irony. He thought about all those slack jawed people. He squinted at the clock on the wall… “Fuck it, might as well check the numbers,” he switched on the tv.

 

    “… so, you’re saying that since mammoths roamed the earth, mankind’s instincts have only ever been fight or flight?”

 

    “Exactly… now with this pandemic there is no fight or flight… we have to do something else… let each family isolate.”

 

    “Shouldn’t be that hard.” (coughs)

 

One a day plus irony is a great phrase.

(will younger folk get the allusion?)

 

 

AJ Blythe

 

    Sofia adjusted her apron, took the tray Chef thrust at her and on silent tread entered the dining hall. After a careful curtsy, she served the old tyrant his buttermilk radish soup.

 

    “Green pepper oil, sir?” She held out a small bottle.

 

    At his nod she trickled a teaspoon over the hot soup. Stoppered the bottle. Took a step back.

 

    He slurped from his spoon. Paused for a rattling breath. Slack-jawed he squinted at her, his face turning a sludgy toad green.

 

    “So-fa.” Drool slid down his chin.

 

    Sofia slid the indenture-ending bottle of green peanut oil into her pocket.

 

ohhh, clever clever!

 

 

Amy Johnson

 

    If only she could have known.

 

 

    Starry eyes finally collide.

 

    After three stints, quints.

 

    Dolly tea parties, little jeans with green knees.

 

    Seven snuggled on the sofa for nursery rhymes, story times, movie nights.

 

    Their silver anniversary, five contributing to society, her second master’s degree.

 

    Wrinkled hands writing letters: lacking stop sign, lights to prevent crime.

 

    Volunteering on that hotline.

 

 

    If only she could have known.

 

 

Very very subtle.

This is a classic illustration of leaving your reader wanting more and resisting the urge to fill in

all the details. A very delicate balance. 

 

 

 

*****

I have a winner in mind but I'd like to hear what you think.

Did I miss anyone?

Did I overlook something amazing?

 

Let me know in the comments column.

 

Final results later today! 

"Later today" didnt account for the burp in the space time contiuum.

You felt it, right?

31 comments:

french sojourn said...


WOW! These were brilliant. There were four that grabbed me out of all the great entries.

Marie; absolute is right.
Colin; another clever way of appreciating art.
Amy; just wow, sourly bittersweet?

Brigid, yours was my favorite. Almost like a rolo-dex turning as recent events unfolded.

C. Dan Castro said...

3rd: Michael Seese - you have to laugh at the end
2nd: Mallory Love - evocative
1st: Jennifer Rand - amazing how much is packed in here

E.M. Goldsmith said...

These are really amazing. I couldn't choose if I tried. Shows that 2020 has hit us all like that meteor that took out the dinosaurs. Wow, some of these are so good. Good luck choosing. Really can't go wrong.

Colin Smith said...

Thanks for the shout-out Janet. It never fails to brighten my Monday when I manage to grab your attention. :)

As for the fine crop of entries this time around, everyone did well. But I think I have to agree with C. Dan Castro and put Jennifer Rand's at the top of the list. Nicely done!

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and thank YOU for the nod, Hank! Can this Monday get any better? :D

Ash Complin said...

All of these were very good.

While I really like C. Dan Castro and AJ Blythe's entries, I absolutely love Brigid's list-as-a-story that hit close to home.

Beth Carpenter said...

I love Jennifer Rand's twist and Colin's pun, but KDJames's life of a couch is the one that kept replaying in my mind. Great finalists, all!

Brigid said...

There are so, so many good ones. Curt David and Marie McKay knocked it out of the park. My favorite was KDJames's.

Hank and Ash, thank you! I don't think I've ever had multiple people mention mine as their favorite before, and I will be dancing all day.

Kregger said...

I'm a sucker for a demon's comeuppance, so C. Dan Castro has my nod.

Amy Johnson said...

Congrats to all, and thank you for sharing your stories. Thank you, Janet. I love that these contests are both fun and instructive. In particular, the last contest and this one gave me much to think about regarding the effective use of subtlety. I got into quite a debate with myself about whether my entry this time was too subtle.

Thanks for the kind words, Hank. Much appreciated.

Also, just in case anyone here is going through an especially sad time, please consider that you can't yet know about the beautiful things the future holds for you, or the many ways you'll help others in the future. The world needs you.

Cecilia Ortiz Luna said...


Jennifer Rand!

Matt Krizan said...

Absolutely loved Brigid’s entry. Thought it was brilliant.

Brigid said...

Amy Johnson, yours slipped past me the first couple of times I read it. But now, with your hint...how beautiful. Heartbreakingly beautiful.

AJ Blythe said...

Thanks, Janet, a lovely surprise to wake to. There were some great entries this week, so I don't envy you the task, but the ones that stuck in my head were C. Dan Castro, Brigid and KDJames.

KDJames said...

Thanks for the mention, Beth and Brigid (and Janet!), that's always a thrill.

There were a couple this time that I didn't quite understand, but I have a feeling they were brilliant. All of these are so good, as always.

Michael Seese and Colin Smith made me burst out laughing at the end. But Brigid's entry was my favourite. Especially once I recognized a few titles and realized they're all real books and those are their real ISBN numbers. Love the clever format and the way the titles aptly told the story of this year.

Well done, everyone!

Steve Forti said...

Kudos to all the finalists

KDJames said...

This is completely off topic (sorry!) but I thought some of you might be interested in this (and Janet, especially, in the Robert Caro interview). I subscribe to the WaPo book newsletter (by Ron Charles) and this was one of the entries the other day:

"The Library of Congress is launching what sounds like a terrific new series about American publishing called “Behind the Book.” It’s a chance to learn about the agents, editors, designers and publicists who help bring an author’s genius into focus and then into your hands. These free events will be streamed on the Library's Facebook page and its YouTube site. The series kicks off with two star-studded conversations involving legendary editors and authors:

-Robert Gottlieb, a former editor-in-chief of Knopf, will talk with two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Robert A. Caro on Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. ET.

-Nan Talese, the senior vice president of Doubleday, will talk with two-time Booker winner Margaret Atwood on Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. ET."

Their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/libraryofcongress
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/LibraryOfCongress

Jennifer Rand said...

Thank you, Dan, Colin, Beth, and Cecelia!
I love the variety in all the entries. Each time I think I have a favorite, another one comes to mind. Good luck Janet! Admirable work everybody!







Just Jan said...

It's already been said, but what a fantastic bunch of entries! I feel like there is something for everyone. My favorites were Curt David and C Dan Castro. Good luck!

Michael Seese said...

Since voting for myself is gauche, I'd put my money on C Dan.

C. Dan Castro said...

The heck with gauche, I change my vote to me, Me, ME!!!! Seriously, though, thanks Kregger, AJ, Just Jan, Michael, and Ash for the shoutouts.

Marie McKay said...

Thanks French Sojourn and Brigid for the shoutout. Thanks Janet for the that amazing comment I might print out and frame. I'm so delighted with it. Well done all the finalists- so many good ones!

John Davis Frain said...

I would have to sit down just to read Marie McKay's grocery list. But if "story" is a hard and fast rule, then I'll abide.

KDJames and the green sofa was wonderful. And a perfect close to boot. A story like that is so tough to pull off in only 100 words. Well done, KD!

I've read Mallory's story three times. I know there's still something I'm not getting, and yet, I love it anyway.

I've also read Amy Johnson three times, and I'm quite sure I'm missing something, but it still reads beautifully to me. Moreover, Amy wins Best Comment hands down. Thank you, Amy.

So I must cast my vote for the deft Jennifer Rand and her staggering discovery. I gasped. And my shoulders sagged. In only a hundred words.

Janet, it's like Thanksgiving ... you have so much goodness to choose from. Y'all are wonderful. Keep writing!

Amanda said...

Congrats to all the finalists!

Amy Johnson said...

Thank you, Brigid and John. How wonderful to wake up and read such nice words.
Brigid, that was such a creative and super cool way to tell a story--kudos to you. John, a little hint about my story: "that hotline" refers to a suicide prevention hotline, something the character is familiar with from years before. A bigger hint: Nothing between the story's first line and its last line got to happen. Sadly.

William said...

A lot of talent. Me, I just dream of getting notification emails for this subscription. Does it do that? 😁

Timothy Lowe said...

Amy Johnson -- wow, just wow.

Marie McKay -- I read a lot of poetry, and I don't think I've read anything more beautiful than this.

Great job, everybody! Who would have thought a snot-green couch would have provided such an inspiration?

Craig F said...

I wish I had checked earlier, you coulda made my whole week. Seeing my name among this august company is awesome.

Congrats to all of the rest of you too.

I am not going to try to pick one to sit on top, it is subjective for me, it all depends on mood and outlook.

Mallory Love said...

There are so many great entries here. I love Jennifer Rand’s and Brigid’s. Marie McKay’s is amazing and I adore Curt David’s. Congrats to all of the other finalists. I wondered after I submitted mine if anyone would get it. It’s like when I tell my kids a story about my childhood, and since they have no context of a life without technology, they just stare at me and shake their heads like I’m crazy. I’m so glad some of y’all got it. At least, I haven’t gone completely insane yet. Lol. If you didn’t get it, no worries...I went way out there with a “fanfic” twist of The Great Gatsby. Have a great week everyone. Almost the weekend again. : )

NLiu said...

I thought I'd come back and select a favourite when I had one but they are all so good I really just can't choose! Congratulations all and I hope everyone wins a prize!

John Davis Frain said...

How to create tension. A masterclass from a sharkly blog.

1. A ticking clock. Set a deadline. Say, wee hours of a Sunday morning as your protagonist frantically pounds her keys to finish a flash entry.

2. Plot twist. Just when the reader thinks they're about to learn whodunnit, pull the carpet out from under them and ...

3. Withhold information. Lengthen a suspenseful moment to tease the reader until you set up a...

4. Cliffhanger. Announce that you know whodunnit, but don't tell the reader ... until they buy book #2 in your series.

Join us tomorrow for a masterclass in "How to Ruin Your Chance with a Top Agent by Displaying Bad Behavior on Their Blog."

Presented by a Mystery Guest Stealing John Frain's login credentials.