Friday, November 17, 2023

En garde, M. Forti!


I'm renewing my efforts to thwart Steve Forti!

It's almost the end of 2023! I must prevail at least once!!



 The usual rules apply:


1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.


2. Use these words in the story:








If you are Steve Forti, or wish you could be, you must also use the word: string quartet BUT you can NOT use it to mean a group of four stringed instruments!





3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.


4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.


5. 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.


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


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


8. 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.


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


10.  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"


11. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (For example: "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!"). Save that for the contest results post.


12. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.


13. 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: Saturday, November 18, 8:12 am EDT


Contest closes: Sunday, November 19, 10:00am EST


Back to the later times this week because I'm heading out on vacation on Sunday!


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. I'm also on Bluesky:

Ready? SET?

Not yet!


Sorry, too late.

Contest is closed. Results to come.



  1. Only two of the pixies could still fly. The rest got their wings damaged when the atoll blew it’s top and ash dropped like rain.

    The two still flying pixies showed up with a couple banana leaves and some vines to make a boat for the rest of the giggle.

    The two towed the floating giggle of pixies until they got to the shoal. With a mightily effort they got across and away from the conflagration, where they had to rest.

    The giggle was finally proud of the two slackers, who were in-flagrante delicto when their paradise went to hell.


  2. He exited Symphony Station into the downpour and crossed at the lights.

    “G-String Quartet” a blinking faded neon sign, greeted him. The dankest strip club in Boston.

    “10 bucks cover?”

    “Consider it a toll, pal.”

    He dropped a 10, entered.

    Soul Train was blaring as the girls danced, looking down coyly at the drunken losers eyeballing them.

    He downed more rotgut whiskey, pissed at the world, because self-loathing was the best chaser. He muttered, “fuckin’ grounded on the shoals of life, ma.”

    Deceleration trauma (i.e. concrete poisoning), a brass verdict, even feeding fish would have been a more humane end.

  3. “The Olympics.”
    “Jus’ sayin’s, all. The best ring quartet’s the Olympic logo.”
    “That’s five, dummy.”
    “A strong contender. We floating ideas, I’m going brass knuckles.”
    “On brand. Clever thinking.”
    “Jupiter’s got four rings, ya know. Joe Montana, too.”
    “My phone before it goes to voice mail.”
    “That’s the winner right there. Love the creative juices. So we all agree? The bloody outline of the four bullet holes we put in the ayatollah here makes the second best ring quartet?”
    “Fo’ sho’.”
    l right. Drop him in the hole and get burying. It’s about to be raining palace guards.”

  4. Four legs. A fucking hamstring quartet. Two hundred large on Muscle Shoals and Every Nook and Cranny nudges her by a nose.

    After, I turn to Paulie:

    “It ain’t that bad.”

    “It’s bad.” He spits a sunflower seed. “You just dropped a deuce on the ayatollah’s pony.”

    “We dropped a deuce,” I remind him. “We’ll make it right by Marco with the rest.”

    “We better, you don’t want to go for a swim.”

    “See this, the 2:55?”

    He squints. “Right as Rain?”

    I point at the paper. “I have it on Authority.”

    Some authority. Turns out, Paulie doesn’t float.

  5. Pedro led the llama train, sure feet plodding between mountain wall and drop. The trail widened into a meadow near a shoal stream. Siesta time. The llamas grazed. Pedro's thoughts floated into dreams.

    A rhythmic cry of alarm. A scream. He jumped at the blust'ring quartet. Llama to llama, he pulled them off the huddled figure.

    "You can't help on the full moon," he told his son.

    "It's daytime!"

    "Tonight's a full moon. Even I smell wolf on you. Go home."

    He calmed the llamas as Miguel slunk homewards.

    "Travel the world," he grumbled. "Have adventures. Come back a werewolf."


  6. We'd trained ourselves to not breathe. But silencing your heartbeat requires a whole new level of zen mastery.

    It wouldn't matter.

    The frayed rope soon would doom us. The monks had used this bell as a call to prayer; now the imminent “bonshō alarm” would lead them here.

    I thought living like this the past six months had taken a toll. But watching as they floated down from the sky was the final straw. Our daughter began sobbing. We saw no need to shush her, again. She deserved to cry.

    And we all deserved the release, inching steadily toward us.

  7. The economy is taking a toll, the grain bill is overdue, and we’re dropping staff to stay afloat. But still. “A bachelorette party?”

    Aida smirks. “Desperate times...”

    “Fearless” at full volume precedes a pair of giggling Swifties—a trio including the tux-clad Yorkie on a string. Quartet, quintet—I stop counting at duodecet.

    Three rounds in, the bride demands “something special.”

    “T’ej,” Aida dangles the lure. “Honeywine, made with gesho. All the rage at Taylor’s Grammy after-party.”

    They bite. “Ooh, Taylor!”

    The meadmaker plunks two magnums of overpriced T’ej on my tray. I nod. “Thanks, Taylor.”

  8. With the threat of extinction floating over us, I'm proud to announce a new, tidal form of energy production. We will begin construction on the shores immediately.

    I won't be koi. I've paid atoll most severe. My scale reading has doubled. My health has gone to Shell. Sandy, my wife, dropped me for my best chum.

    But, I couldn't do this alone. I've only seen further than others by standing on the shoalders of giants.

    With our new generators, we can finally bring the fight to the dam surface-dwellers. May the Kingdom of Atlantis rain forever!

  9. Raine left no footprints in the muddy shoals.

    It had to be a dream. She awoke on the couch, dropped in front of the television. Relief.

    A nightmare from the true crime documentary. A view of the sandbar in the river flashed on the screen. She had been friends with the accused. Oliver. Decades ago. Everyone said he was innocent of that triple murder. Until the water pulled back from that sandbar to expose the old bones. She stared at Ollie’s image, remembered. Her body turned to bones.

    A momentary horror. The knife. The pain. Then floating. And light.

  10. Before I met Chip, I never thought a tollhouse toff could fall for a bit of sugar and spice from the Shoals. He was all mine, right up until the day he spied a bunch of ne'er-do-wells floating around the kitchen: Rainier cherries. Sour cream. Cream cheese.

    And Graham.

    Snickerdoodle, Chip cried, Graham said I'd make the PERFECT addition!

    Don't listen to that cracker, I wailed. He's nothing but crust!

    Chip insisted. Persisted.

    Sorrowfully, I desisted.

    I'll be back, he promised, as he dropped over the side of our jar, but my semi-sweetheart never returned.

    We were both crushed.

  11. Last glance at the murder scene – and I am off. Eleventh item is done.

    I merge into a shoal of sullen passersby under freezing Moscow rain.

    A 92-year-old vet, a socialite, an athlete…each dropped NKVD-style with a single back-of-the-head point-blank shot – for which I was dubbed “Shadow.”

    Yes, I am exterminating all remaining ex-NKVD agents involved in the execution of my grandfather – and their kin.

    It’s taking a toll on me, but I’m trying to stay afloat.
    A phone call about this killing is incoming. After all, I am the top police detective assigned to the “Shadow Murders” investigation.

  12. Everyone hated Captain Billy, including his fiance’s miniature poodle Princess. The harbor master found his ship as it floated and bobbed, grounded on a shoal near the atoll where one year earlier, Captain Billy’s fiance drowned under suspicious circumstances. As raindrops lashed the ship, the harbor master discovered Billy pinned to the helm by a harpoon through his back. Princess, half-starved from being trapped onboard for several days, had eaten a portion of Billy’s left calf. The harpoon was pink and featured a rubber horn, so no one was surprised at the arrest of the fiance’s brother, Pinky the Clown.


  13. I cannot be here. A string, quartet of queer days, has mired me in a shoal, stalled. I need a drowning deep, Mariana Trench to steam ahead.

    Day five. On a horizon marked only by one blue edging another, a smudge. Black. Creeping closer, now clearly a flotilla in newsprint black. First sound, like raindrops plop a tin roof, pleasant.

    Day eight. A toll assessed, remitted, eight days. Second sound, emitted by the flotilla’s flattop. A barrage of letters rip the surface, led by Q. Or O?
    I lift a word from the letters. I can be here. Page one…

  14. We cast out from North Shoals jetty: Mike, Don, me. Eddie joins making a string quartet of fishing lines, his rod monogrammed like his raincoat and gear.

    We had been five, but the drink took a toll on George. If he ran his business as hard as his mouth, he’d have been rich. He wound up floating ashore, fishing knife wound in the back. Police never found the weapon, so the case went cold.

    Don pulls his rod, glimpsing leather. A handle? No. Another boot. He lets it drop.

    Eddie sighs, but we try again. For his sake we must.

  15. A hastily built lattice suspended over a flooded mulch pit, its surface broken only by a few scattered clumps that rise above the horizon like a South Pacific atoll. The last raindrop splashes below, and then a drain clears and the water empties. Clinging desperately to the shoals of a rising island, a beetle fights to survive the raging tide, unaware of the spider hovering above. A trapeze artist, she balances on a string quartet of sticky web, eyeing her prey. Alas, a fatal misstep. She twists and turns amongst the floating debris and is swept under and away.

  16. I surveyed the four brides, four inseparable BFFs, comparing engagement rings -- pastel cubic zirconium chunks posing as diamonds -- bragging about size. Gaudiest ring quartet ever.

    Why had I become a group wedding planner?

    They cooed over the enormous, hideous wedding cake, which was not a cake. It was . . . a toll house cookie. Topped with electric blue frosting and sprinkles. Eye strain imminent.

    Beside me, my chef whispered, “Fo’ sho, all them girls be havin’ regrets come mornin’.”

    I eyed the fruit flies floating in the lemon drop punch, shuddered.

    Not my problem.

    I’d been paid up front, in cash.

  17. Some days grandma misses her home so much she says it felt like a physical pain in her heart. She misses the rain the most, precious when it came, pounding the ocean like drums. She misses slipping off as a child, neglecting her chores to float among the bright shoals of fish. The same fish she'd later string, quartets at a time, on her hook for dinner.

    Grandma grows very silent when I ask her why she can't go back. There's nothing left to go back to, she says.

    Dropping twenty nuclear bombs on an atoll doesn't leave much behind.

  18. Water Patrol pulls over Frain’s wife and boards her vessel.

    “So you were fishing?”

    “Following the shoals of herring to catch my husband’s dinner.” She points. “He’s down below.”

    “But your boat has no cabin below.”

    “Oh.” She winks. “He’s not in a cabin. He’s testing a floatation device.”

    “How does that work?”

    “It doesn’t,” she says, forcing a teardrop. “It’s why we’re drifting apart.”

    That line took a toll on his patience. “I’ll have to cuff you for that one,” the officer groans.

    “It was still worth it. I couldn’t live with that guy anymore.”


  19. Four siblings.

    The parents float in and out, but Chelle makes sure the younger ones eat, get to school.

    In sixth grade, Chelle reads L’Engle. Her shoal of classmates misses the points. Chelle reads it to Vincent, explains the bug on the string. Next, Ty. Then, Rosie.

    Four siblings sent to four separate foster homes.

    Bus rides, treks through the rain – to check on the three of them, drop off library books, encourage them. Incredibly, none of it takes a toll on Chelle’s GPA.

    “Four siblings, four former foster kids, four theoretical physicists,” says the article. “A string quartet.”

  20. I dreamed I went to the lighthouse again. Like a spirit, I dropped off the cliffside and floated along the shoals and shores of the dark sea. The light chased me as I traveled. But it couldn’t catch me. I was unrestrained, ethereal.

    I could sense you in the tower, watching, waiting. Sometimes you'd question your sanity. The loneliness took a toll. That’s how our fight started. With the questions turned accusations.

    Now you direct them at yourself. Did I slip, or did you shove me?
    The machines beep, but my eyes can’t open. See you soon, in my dreams.

  21. I think of you whenever I hear the Raindrop Prelude.

    I was a lone wolf, skinny and scabbed with mange, who mistook you for the moon – floating exalted, so bright, so cold – and sang you a wild nocturn.

    Condescending, you invited me in, taught me more civilised music. I grew – stood on two feet, every aria tolling sophistication, your feral little protégé.

    I cringed at your heel. But it was your shoal heart I craved.

    One bold night of storms, I took it.

    Only flesh it was. Only flesh.

    Still, I think of you whenever I hear the Raindrop Prelude.