In memoriam

by Geoff Le Pard

George mouthed his lover’s name as he fixed the last lightbulb in place. He noted the display didn’t draw much attention, only the odd glance and one or two smiles. He was sure they knew why he had put lights on this bare tree, why the city authority had left it alone. Dan would have said they’d ‘twigged’ and broken down in giggles. How he missed that giggle.

Sighing he turned to the barred and padlocked door and its graffitied sign, still just about recognisable as ‘Pink Flamingo’.

‘Best dance scene ever, eh Dan?’ George’s breath left a steamy film on the dirty cracked window as he peered inside. No one wanted this place, not after what Gillan Housego had done. George strained as he always did to remember any of it; the shots, the screams, the inevitable smell of blood but nothing survived the bullet’s kindness in removing the horror as it took his consciousness. He knew, from the reports, that Dan died early on. He read with disbelief, in the months after he emerged from the coma, of 140 other deaths.

The young and not so young, men and woman, all seeking a safe place just to be themselves despite so many disapproving of their lifestyles.

He should have been number 142 but he had lived. It took him months to go back and wonder why. He sat in the tree’s shade and let the voices emerge. He learnt each name, each one part of his village. They would not be forgotten.

That’s when the idea of the lights came to him, one light for the light that had gone out.

‘Hi. George, is it?’

The woman’s hair was a vibrant candy-floss stripe.

‘Mel? I recognise you from your photo. You’re the first.’

She touched her hair. ‘I’ve not dyed it since, you know. Which one…?’

He tapped a bulb. ‘Phyllis.’

‘You know them all?’

‘Sure.’ Two men joined them, studying the branches. ‘I’m expecting over 100 today.’

One of the men said, ‘Such a lovely gesture.’

‘Memorial. I’m keeping it going.’ George dabbed away a tear. ‘These particular fairy lights ain’t never going out.’

Happy Tuesday, Friends! Thanks to everyone who came out to write this past weekend, and thanks also to Brady Koch for volunteering to judge and for offering a copy of his new book as a bonus prize. You’ll find Brady’s comments and top picks below.

First of all thanks to Rebecca for inviting me to judge and for bringing Angry Hourglass back. With our lives and environments in a constant flux, it’s helpful to have respite on the weekends for a little creative release.

We had some great reads this week. 2 dystopias, 2 dog encounters, 2 visits from beyond the grave, and 2 instances of tree lights brightening the human experience.  It’s amazing what a simple photo prompt can evoke. I was curious to see what kinds of themes can come from this prompt so I made this word cloud to analyze. Interesting to see what we’re all thinking about.

Some quick reflections on this week’s entries:

The Life App by Angelique Pacheco – I can relate to this one with my phone constantly affixed to my palm.

The Dog Did It by Alva Holland – This seems like something I would do . . . or have done. Post-election campaign signs and holiday decorations are both in the same category for me: you have two days after the event to take them down.

Knowing by @el_Stevie – Always a fan of fitting a dystopia into flash. Really like thinking about the relevancy of these newspaper boxes in a future society.

To Grant A Wish by @carolrosalind – Great concept of using the tree as the character. Made me think of the other events a city tree would witness over its lifespan.

In Memoriam by @geofflepard – The holiday lights as memorial won me over. The fact that each bulb has meaning was just great to no end.

News of the World by @AvLaidlaw – I like portrayals of wrong-headed revolts. Feels immediately relevant.

My Poinsettia Love by Nicola Tapson – Poinsettias always struck me as a sad plant. Maybe it’s the white blood, maybe it’s that no matter what efforts I make, I can’t get them to live past January. I’ve heard the post death delivery of flowers over years, but this is the first time I can think of where the dead loved one is hinting about foul play.

Untimely by Jeff Rowlands – Grim Reaper is a busy guy. He has to run late some times as Jeff Rowlands effectively points out. Great concept of reading your own obituary.

1st Runner Up: To Grant A Wish by @carolrosalind – fresh POV for a lead character.

 

And our Round 118 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Geoff Le Pard

With

In Memoriam

Simple and honest story of coping with grief years later.

Congratulations, Geoff! Your story will be featured as Wednesday’s HumpDay Quickie! If you wish to collect your book, please send me your mailing address through the contact tab and I’ll forward it to Brady. Next weekend, A.J. Walker is back as acting judge. Hope to see you all there.

Welcome back, friends. December is here, and judge Brady Koch is ready to read some flash. As an added bonus, this week’s FLASH MASTER will win a physical copy of Koch’s new book, Guns, Gods & Robots.

Before we get started, here’s a brief reminder of the rules.

Deadline: Sunday at 6:00pm MST. You all have 36 hours to create your best work of up to 360 words (exclusive of title) and post it into the comments below. Please include your word count (required) and Twitter handle if applicable. For complete rules, click here. 

The winning author and their story will be featured as Wednesday’s Hump-Day Quickie and be crowned Flash Master of the Week.

Here is your prompt.

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photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

 

Those Things Are Going To Kill You

by AV Laidlaw

I wind down the window as the policeman saunters towards the car. He wears mirrored sunglasses, big ones that cover half his face, as if he’s from some seventies cop show.

“Is there a problem?” I lick my dry lips. Police make me nervous because of the speeding tickets and breath tests. My chest tightens and sweat prickles my face.

He doesn’t take off the sunglasses. “You can’t park here.”

“I’ll only be a couple of minutes.” I shrug. My left arm aches after all the miles driving for work.

“There are signs.”

My mobile, nestled among the polystyrene cups and fast food wrappers on the passenger seat, rings. Janice flashes up on the screen. She must have got my message about not seeing the kids at the weekend. I reject the call.

“I’m just going to pop into the shop and get some cigarettes.”

“They’re very bad for you.”

My mouth’s too dry to laugh so I swallow air. “Is this some government thing, handing out health advice?”

“Just saying, sir.”

“I know.”

“Do you? Last month there was a man, a business man much like yourself, smoking as he drove. He dropped the cigarette on his lap. Now a thing like that is going to cause a distraction. He crashed and the car caught fire. Flames and smoke like the very pits of hell.”

“Okay, I won’t stop here. I’ll try a garage or something.” I stretch out my arm to relive the ache but it only gets worse, burning from my shoulder to my fingertips. The air is too thick to breathe.

“My point is the end comes quicker than you expect. Sometimes it comes before you’re ready.” The policeman crouches down so his face is level with mine. Reflected in his sunglasses I see my blanched face and red rimmed eyes and the fat of my neck rolling over my shirt collar. “Perhaps just a warning this time.”

I see the houses and the trees lining the street and a child’s bicycle propped up against a wall.
“Drive safely, sir.” He stands. “It’s a long road ahead. Make sure you get where you’re supposed to be.”

Happy Tuesday, friends! Thank you to everyone who stopped by to write and comment this past weekend. Thanks also to David Shakes for judging and commenting on this week’s entries. You’ll find his thoughts and top picks below.

Hello folks.

Thank you Rebecca for inviting me to judge. 2016 has be a pivotal year. Interestingly, a couple of stories touch upon quantum mechanics and the multiverse. My own theory is that we’re now on the wrong timeline – hopefully The Enterprise, Time Cop, The Sliders or Dr Who will show up soon to make some adjustments without causing a temporal rift.

When we’re course corrected, I hope I still have my new job. The only downside is that it’s eating my time like there’s no tomorrow. I’m not writing. I’m still reading. (Always read – always!)

What a pleasure it was to read your stories for what I considered a great prompt. Think I detect some new (to me) voices too. I really loved everything you wrote. Glad to be back in the saddle.

May I just add one more thing? Thank goodness the Hourglass is back! We need this.

As always, judged blind and random order. I’ve made short notes for all and then it’s time for winners:

Thin Spaces, Shadow Places

One of my top three titles. Alluded to this in my introduction – Sci Fi with depth of emotion and some great philosophical moments. Making the here matter most – someone knows my own outlooks or just resonated?  Lovely writing.

From Fear to Modernity

Another of my top three titles. A familiar style – full marks (or Mark’s?!) for emotionally charged imagery. I connected with the character on a really deep level and the ‘caldera eyes of her gaunt doppelgänger…’ is fabulous imagery and heralds that ending. That single word at the end. That word. Sublime.

Of Quantum Ticketing and Squashed Ducks (and Don’t Even Mention the Dog)

Last of the top three titles, first of the laugh out loud tales this week. I first spat my coffee at the line:

‘…it’s not doing duck things anymore.’ and then didn’t stop laughing. The punchline was fabulous and grounding too. Great fun here. Northern humour through quality dialogue? It’s like a treasure hunt this!

LaVon King, Street Artist, Dies at 26

Brilliant in its blunt simplicity. A social commentary wrapped in a tragic story. The brevity of the descriptions of the artwork for the moving gallery still managed to conjure great pictures in my head and the juxtaposition of ‘…dark eyes peering from jungles’ and ‘angels weeping over expressways’ really worked – felt cinematic. Strong endings abound this week – this was one of the strongest.

Through Hell and Beyond

A ‘does what it says on the tin’ title here but a well handled story. Some of the side roads presented us with another type of social commentary and I kept thinking: The Wages of Sin (I suppose you can take the boy out of church…) I liked the last line very much – I suspected that reincarnation beckoned – a chance to be reborn?

Big-Boned

Second laugh out loud story of the week and just great. In the first paragraph and I guess eternity / maternity link and thought – this is the man – The Prince of Puns, Guardian of Grammar, doing his thing. In the second paragraph I didn’t see the ‘…back in two shakes’ and ‘David!’ coming – stories should, they say, connect on a personal level though!

Final paragraph and the set-up pays off – the punchline was brilliant. Well worth it.

A Choice to be Made

This gave me a coffin fit! No – I can’t do puns can I? I thought the white van man reference and the fact that we were delivering one side of the Mersey (mine or Zev’s?) made this a FlashDog tale (tail?) at least and I drew up a shortlist of suspects but can’t guess as well as in others. I found myself in the position of typing ‘Do they burn coffins in the UK?’ in to Google. Seems it’s an FAQ! This is the second example of a simple tale that works because it is what it is without pretense. We’ve had life after death and now life with death.

No Through Road

No parking, deep emotions.

The second story to do the life after death trip and the second one (in the order I read them at least) to feature the loss of children. There’s a focus on memory here, of memory being stripped away perhaps, but not before it’s recalled and reconciled whether our narrator wants to or not. What’s beyond the tunnel? No parking.

No Parking

or ‘To be Frank, He Gets What He Deserves’ – No, puns still not my thing at all. I do like a nice tables-turned story and the predatory Frank will eternally regret dating Ashley. I liked how she still had time to appreciate the well described view at Lover’s Cove and this was the first, subtle signs that she may not be as intimidated as we’d first imagined. Blowing him up may have been a tad too far though!

Composing a Sonnet

Most disarming title award. Psycho killer qu’est ce que c’est?

I really liked how this one played out, with the narrator’s voice taking us along with it, drawing us in to his thought patterns, his motivations. ‘My house is ETERNITY’ – a bold line with, I felt, layers of meaning – backed up with the finality of HERE for the boy’s fate. ‘There, there – all done.’ Chilling – especially ‘…although I must say crimson is a most becoming colour…’ A master of show not tell at work here.

Those Things Are Going To Kill You

Warning signs eh? Signs that give warning. This was great and, upon re-reading, the clues are there from the start – dry lips & breath tests; pins, needles and fast food wrappers. I wondered if the businessman who burned himself was our guy? A glimpse of the future or a past not remembered?  Certainly the repeated use of the word ‘burning’ gave hints, the air being too thick to breathe. Great last line, (haven’t they all been though?) loaded with meaning. Kind of thing I’d try to write to be honest.

A Heartbeat in THX Sound

We start and end with some Sci Fi. A future where the death of cinema and the rise of technology has reached its sad conclusion. I loved the question ‘Would you put The Grand Canyon in your pocket?’ – a fabulous summary of the point our author is making. The real horrors are hinted at in the one-liners – like kissing in person or believing the truth (topical!) being a thing of the past. This is the only entry to directly reference the film too. That last line is so loaded with imagery that I’m still unpicking it.

There are no special mentions as they were all special (and not in that ‘it’s the taking part that counts’ patronizing kind a way) – that’s why I mentioned them all. You’ve taken time to make thought into word and now something unique exists in the digital ether because of it. How cool is that?

Second Runner up is A Heartbeat in THX Sound by Richard Edenfield for premise and execution

First Runner up is Big-Boned by Geoff Holme for the humour and audacity

And our Round 117 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

AV Laidlaw

with

Those Things Are Going To Kill You

…because I enjoyed it the most

Congratulations, AV! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Next weekend we enter the magical month of December, and Brady Koch will be there to kick-off the judging.

We will be breaking for Christmas, but if I can find a volunteer to judge, The Angry Hourglass will ring in the New Year with Round 121!

Until next time!

Hello again! I hope everyone who celebrated this past week had a wonderful holiday. For those Black Friday shoppers out there, I trust your expedition was uneventful and free of injury, and now you’re ready to write some flash. This weekend, David Shakes is our judge.

Before we get started, here’s a brief reminder of the rules.

Deadline: Sunday at 6:00pm MST. You all have 36 hours to create your best work of up to 360 words (exclusive of title) and post it into the comments below. Please include your word count (required) and Twitter handle if applicable. For complete rules, click here. 

The winning author and their story will be featured as Wednesday’s Hump-Day Quickie and be crowned Flash Master of the Week.

Here is your prompt.

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photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

Gone

by Angelique Pacheco

“The fe-he-ris wheel goes up and down, up and down, up and down, the fe-he-ris wheel goes up and down, ALL DAY LONG!” I heard this song all day yesterday and it was no longer an ear worm but an ear anaconda. My baby sister, who was now four, was the most annoying person in the whole wide world. With blonde hair and blue eyes she was the apple of everyone’s eye but mine. She was more like a pip in mine… a pip squeak. I laughed. My mother had promised to take her to the fair today so she could ride on the Ferris wheel. Borriing! I wanted to go get the computer game that my friends were raving about and now I was stuck going to the fair. I hoped no one I knew would see me. Emily walked in and twirled her dress. “Am I a princess, Cody?” she asked her blue eyes pleading for my approval. “Sure. Whatever.” I grunted, barely acknowledging her. She beamed as though I had given her the world.

When we arrived at the fair Emily was bouncing off the seats, she was so excited. She yanked at my sleeve. “Come Cody!” I followed her closely as she made her way to the Ferris wheel and I bought her tickets. My mother had said to make sure she went twice and I was to go with her. No way! I gave the ticket guy both tickets and pointed her out. She was sitting next to an older lady so I knew she’d be okay.

I watched her for a bit and decided to go see a stall of video games I had spied when I came in. I would be back before the second round was done. I had a quick check but was disappointed at the meager selection and went to wait for Emily. The Ferris wheel was just coming to a stop and people were getting off. No Emily. Heart beginning to pound, I went to the ticket keeper and asked about her. The young lady got off with her mother after one round. The blood in my veins froze.