Monday, November 20, 2023

Nov 19 FlashFiction contest prelim results


A lot of you want to be Steve Forti!

Here are the various ways you deployed string quartet:


french sojourn “G-String Quartet”

Steve Forti best ring quartet

Tim Lowe hamstring quartet


BJ Muntain blust'ring quartet.

Beth Carpenter string. Quartet,

J.R. Raglow  A string, quartet of queer days, has mired me in a shoal


Colin Smith a string quartet of fishing lines

KA Claytor tie around hamstring. Quart Ethylbenzene,

Michael Pappas string quartet of sticky web


KD James  Gaudiest ring quartet ever.

Diana The same fish she'd later string, quartets at a time, on her hook for dinner.

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




Here are the entries that caught my eye.



BJ Muntain


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."


That final line just makes the whole piece.



E.M. Goldsmith


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.


I'm not exactly sure what's going on here but "her body turned to bones" is wonderfully enigmatic.



Just Jan


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.


wonderfully imaginative










Chad jumped up from the snot-green couch—the most he’d moved in days. Cheetos rained down like confetti, neon orange bits smearing into the new carpet. He dropped the remote, picking it up with his bare toes. “Tallulah, fetch me another beer. Be quick about it.”


Wives are given a toll-free number, if the time comes.


A recording offers instructions with measured reassurance.


“To keep the body from floating…”


Tallulah scribbled furiously, ‘Twenty-pound weight, tie around hamstring. Quart Ethylbenzene, for sedation…’


Now, out beyond the shoal, Chad, his beer, and his remote keep company with the others.


Homage to the dearly departed snot-green couch.

(for those of you new to the reef, this was the description of my former couch, the one I revised with a carving knife)








John Davis Frain


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.”


I love Frain's wife!







Mallory Love


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.


oh my!





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.


I'm not exactly sure what's going on here, but it's lovely.



Here are the four finalists


Steve Forti


“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’.”

“All right. Drop him in the hole and get burying. It’s about to be raining palace guards.”


Talk about a twist of an ending!



Ash Complin


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!


Oh suite mother of godiva!





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.


my heart just stopped when I read that last line.




Amy Johnson


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.”


I'm going to need some more time to pick the winner, clearly.

What an array of wonderful this is!


Let me know what you think in the comment column.


french sojourn said...

Nliu loved yours, biting the hand that feeds you, then eating the rest? That wonderful piece by Chopin always reminds me that eventually every storm runs out of rain.

CraigF – sweet, really made me grin.

Timothy Lowe – loved what you did there.

GSF3 – nice.

KDJames – Ring quartet… well played.

Amy Johnson – loved yours in “theory” – really nice.

cheers Hank

Dimitrius Harmata said...

Steve Forti's entry immediately resonated - and I am now the story about a sniper team (sniper+spotter)? I am asking because the topic is, ahem, close to me, shall we say? The banter doesn't seem authentic, but maybe that's how you wanted it to be? Anyways, I am super intrigued.

KDJames made me see the story as if it was unfolding on a movie screen - hilarious, too :)

french soujorn's entry made me feel like re-watching a version of Jack Nicholson's Chinatown...familiar themes, yet still very satisfying.

Yes, a lot of entries made me echo the Sharque's words "I'm not exactly sure what's going on here"...and I will leave it at that :)

But what a wonderful bunch to me among, and a surprisingly beautiful nook of the Universe!

BJ Muntain said...

I knew KAClaytor would get a mention! So happy I got one, too!

Of the finalists, I think Diana's has the most heart.

Timothy Lowe said...

Atlantis gets my vote, although the lighthouse was a close second. Forti obviously took gold on the rings.

Amazing work, all!

Amy Johnson said...

Wow, thanks for the nod, Janet!

Hank, thanks for the comment. String theory of theoretical physics and me? Not an example of "write what you know [well]." ;) I like lots about your story -- I remember "self-loathing was the best chaser" especially grabbed me.

Congrats to all for these wonderful stories! I'd surely get booted to Carkoon for Grossly Exceeding the Space Allowance in The Comments Section if I gave all the compliments I'd like to give. Everyone who entered, consider yourself complimented! Of those not mentioned, Colin's was one that especially caught my eye. Colin, I thought you might be adding your own name to the spreadsheet this time around.

NLiu said...

Janet and Hank thanks for the mention! The aim was to write something that could be taken a couple of different ways but obviously it just turned out confusing. You are very kind to be nice about it.

My favourite out of the finalists was Diana's! I also loved BJ Muntain's werewolf llama farmer. Mallory Love's was probably my favourite overall. Super haunting.

These are always such fun. Enjoyed reading every single entry.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

So many good ones and so much fun to read!

Just Jan's story made me wish I had an ice cold glass of milk nearby as I read it. :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Some of theses are so good. So good. But Forti. How will we ever defeat him? He's like the high sorcerer of words and stories. Wow! So impressive. How does he do it week after week, contest after contest? I can manage about one a year. I am in awe. May the impossible dream go on forever to defeat Steve Forti. It sure does draw some wonderful stories. Not only from him. But from the entire Reef. Well, done everyone.

Craig F said...

Thanks for the shout, Hank, glad to make someone grin.

I was partial to Ash Complin until I noticed the reign/rain problem.

Amy Johnson was raised to first because of that flaw, in my humble opinion.

Congrats to all those called out and all who had the gumption to enter, made my weekend better.

John Davis Frain said...

I'm jealous of what Ash Complin was able to pull off. But I must tip my cap to Mr. Forti for his Olympian entry as well.

In other words, I'm glad I get to enter instead of judge. One's harder than the other, and it only depends on timing.

Ash Complin said...

I'm amazed with the number of ways people were Steve Forti or wished they could be. I especially liked Amy Johnson's incorporation of string theory. I wish I had thought of it to go with Isaac Newton's "shoulders of giants" line.

I'm glad I don't have to choose among all these great entries. I feel bad for Janet on this one.

@Craig F: The reign/rain misspelling was intentional to make it a water domain-themed pun, like koi/coy and dam/damn.

Steve Forti said...

Hat tip to JDF for making me laugh. I always enjoy the funny ones a little more. And I echo Janet's comments: I've come to expect lovely writing from NLiu.
@Dimitrius: not a sniper and spotter, though I can see that. I pictured four guys standing directly over the body they'd just whacked.

Diana said...

I'm always in awe at the creativity of all the short story contest entries, so it's a surprise and honor to be considered a finalist this week!

I greatly enjoyed Steve Forti's entry, but Amy Johnson's use of string quartet absolutely tickled my nerdy heart and therefore is my favorite. All the other entries were fabulous and I'm endlessly jealous of the incredibly creative, memorable ways people incorporate the prompt words!

Beth Carpenter said...

So many funny stories, but the one that ticked me the most is BJ Muntain's llama herder's werewolf son. My favorite overall, though, has to be Amy Johnson's. It touches my heart.

KDJames said...

Thanks for the mention, Hank and Dimitrius! Always nice when that happens.

I really thought Mallory Love's entry would be the winner. So evocative. And when you realize it's only from the perspective of the "pushed" and that we don't know whether the "pusher" is really feeling any remorse or guilt or even still hanging out at the lighthouse-- it just adds to the heartbreak.

Of the four finalists, I love each of them but for different reasons. Clever interpretations; delightful word-play; twist in emotions; story within a story. No way to chose a favourite.

I think I'd go with Steve Forti, simply because I can't remember the last time he won and he certainly deserves to. Did he win so many times already that he was Forti-bly [forcibly] retired from competition? It's possible.

Good luck deciding, Janet!

Julie Weathers said...

I'd forgotten how much I love these short stories. We were having a discussion about short stories on the Litforum and a friend linked one by Saki "The Schartz Metterklume Method." She thought Lady Carlotta and Lorena from my The Rain Crow would get along well. They probably would.

So, I spent a day reading short stories and now I remember how much I miss the ones posted here.

Thank you all for such wonderful entries.


KDJames said...

Did you all know that Chopin's Raindrop Prelude has several arrangements for both piano and string quartet? I just googled it, on a hunch, because I suspected NLiu knew that. I laughed so hard. Well done, NLiu, well done.

Julie!! I have SO missed your voice and stories over here. I hope you're doing well and your knees are behaving (no pain).

Just Jan said...

Impressed by everyone who was able to work in string quartet. Steve Forti was a given, of course, but major kudos to everyone else. As always, so many great stories to read!

Thanks for the shout-out Janet and Madeline Mora-Summonte!

I loved BJ Muntain's werewolf and llama story. Of the finalists, I have to vote for Ash Complin, with Amy Johnson as first runner up. Well done!

Dimitrius Harmata said...

Thank you! My bad - I let my imagination run wild with picturing a SOF team infiltrating a certain country in the Persian Gulf :)

Julie Weathers said...

LOL That welcome reminds me of when I go to visit my son. No, not from my son or even the grandkids. He has two huskies who LOVE Grandma and go crazy trying to get out the door when they hear her drive up. My car doesn't make that much noise. They just recognize it.

We shant discuss the knees, but I have knees so that's good.

It was such a treat to read all the stories and comments.

I hope you're doing well.