Happiness

by Marie McKay

He owned my mother’s happiness. He broke it up like breadcrumbs and fed it to her when it suited him.
Mum was an ever decreasing presence. First, her body shrank and then her soul.
He made everything shrink. His mates would come round, the pecking order clear to see. They’d make this one guy cry, said stuff about his sister. I think he didn’t have any words to fight back with. After, they’d have me make them thick sandwiches. And they’d show off to the big man who made them feel big and small all at the same time; profanity and food erupting from their mouths until he tired of them.
He made the world too real for a 7-year-old. Once I wet my trousers because I was too scared to walk past the chair he was sprawling on. I’d held off going to the toilet for hours.
He made my stomach feel like razor blades. He was bovver boots stamping on my guts. He was a pneumatic drill in my head.
One day, in the back room I found my mum’s box of happiness. He’d forgotten to lock it away. I gave it back to her expecting things to be the way they once were. She kissed me and that was the last time I saw her.
On the night she died, he watched a film. He laughed and laughed and laughed. I eventually fell asleep on the couch dreaming of nothing.

Hello again. As the first half of the year winds down, I’d like to say how much I appreciate everyone who has contributed to The Angry Hourglass. I truly couldn’t do it without the collective efforts of everyone involved. This week an extra special thanks goes out to David Shakes who has contributed as a writer, judge, and photographer. He’s been here since the beginning and once again performed admirably in his capacity as judge. You’ll find his comments on this week’s entries below.

Thank you for having me back once again to judge. It was a bloody weird weekend in the UK and our country is still reeling from the fallout. These stories, largely humorous, brought some light relief (in most cases) and the last one nailed the schizophrenia we’re currently experiencing.

Anyway, this site is for writing, not politics, so let’s crack on.

The quality of the titles was particularly noteworthy this round.

The Birthday Present

A great effort, full of humour and sharp observation – made me think ‘thank goodness for show don’t tell’! Builds to a satisfying pay-off and reveal. Great mechanics and a seasoned hand with the writing.

Best line:

For me,” squealed Ruth surfacing from the duvet like a whale erupting from the depths.

What a simile – what a fate!

The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular Show

Poor Mark is getting more damage to his privates than the guy in the Birthday Present – albeit self-inflicted. How many ways did this writer find to describe his increasingly painful wardrobe malfunction and the physical consequences? Hilarious.

Best line:

Mark winced, convinced his left ball was being scythed off and was probably hanging by a thread, he tried to juggle his precious pair by standing like a gunslinger and gyrating his hip.

 

A Magnificent Mugful of Minestrone ( or Super Soup-erlatives)

So, by now I’ve realised there’s been a conspiracy to write the funniest or most bizarre story between you all. A soup drinking robot who rebels against his programming to sample soups of the world in many a #flashdogs hometown? Come on!

Littered with alliterative soup-erlatives and humour and, like the first two, really well written.

Best line:

He was told  by a laughing Jamaican lady that it would put hairs on his chest. Perhaps he hadn’t drunk enough of it yet.

Happiness

Well, there’s an ironic title for you. Image after sad or disturbing image layer up until you marvel at the writer’s skill and are moved by the child’s plight. Did this writer not get the humour memo?

Best line:

Mum was an ever decreasing presence. First, her body shrank and then her soul.

When you realise what the happiness was, you see this line in its bleak, literal sense.

Excellent writing.

I’ll Do Anything for Love, I’ll Even Do This

Back to the humour again. Tight dialogue reveal two characters with a plan, and, despite some hints and reveals, it kept me guessing right up to the last minute. I didn’t have to Google Durian fruit having smelled the stuff once. I’m with the wife to be – that guy must really love her! Great title and nice twist ending.

Best line:

She better drink the damn thing as soon as she gets in else I’ll be charging her for a fumigation.

€uro-septic

Classic juxtaposition and inverted expectations? Bet I know who this is! (post-edit note – yep, quick check proves me right!) The whole, disgusting, overblown mess of the UK referendum captured in the tight writing, repetition and returns of the imagery. I loved the irony of Harmony’s name and the panning the writer gives social media (despite me being a massive user!)

Best line:

She’d tell you who drew it but you’d only judge

RUNNER UP:

The Birthday Present – by Steph Ellis

It took the obvious fetishistic elements of the story and twisted them into a story full of humour and subtle horror.

And our Round 113 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Marie McKay

with Happiness

Achingly sad and yet beautiful in its execution. Raw writing from somebody clearly skilled in the craft.

Congratulations, Marie! Your story will be featured as Wednesday’s HumpDay Quickie!

Next weekend, I shall be making the drive to my new home in a new state, so there will be a short hiatus followed by Flash Face Off 4. As always, thank you for being a part of The Angry Hourglass. See you all soon.

Welcome back. It’s Round 113, and this weekend our judge is David Shakes!

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, receive a winner’s page, and be crowned Flash Master of the Week.

Here is your prompt.

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photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

The Mover

by Marie McKay

He didn’t fully understand it himself. It had been this way since he could remember. He wasn’t sure if it had made him grow into eccentricity, or if it was just another part of his make-up. But he’d been different, and he’d enjoyed it.
He chose clothes that impeccably mismatched, folded swan napkins into breast pockets and tucked pocket watches into odd socks.
Loneliness was a part of it, but he enjoyed that too. He had very little in common with anyone, anyway. He didn’t quite fit into a category, so he hadn’t suffered scorn or cruelty in the way that others might.
Of course, they did probably fear him. But that was misplaced. He had mastered it just to forget it.
Some days he still used it for his own amusement- a party trick for the man who never attended parties.
Had it started with smaller objects- pins, coins, buttons, pens, spoons, cups- it would have taken him on a different, more profitable journey. Telekinesis was a beautiful, mind boggling gift. Making an object fly through the air or stick to a wall with a mere look in its direction was indeed awesome. But children…

I hope everyone had a wonderful Father’s Day weekend. Thanks to Sal Page for judging this week’s entries. You’ll find her comments and top picks below.

Comment: Five well-written stories, using this interesting photo prompt as inspiration. A missing story, which is the one I would have written if I wasn’t the judge. I wonder what that would have been? Quite amazing how we bring something new into existence week after week. But each one of these has something that could’ve made it a winner. In the end I decided to just pick a winner plus one runner-up, which was a tough decision and could easily have had a different outcome. Have I got it ‘right’? Who knows?

Sunflowers by Voima Oy
A vividly drawn portrait of the art loving Mr Serrano, who even dresses to honour his favourite author and artist. He seems a rather sad character, who has no one around him who really shares his interests.
Fave line: ‘He imagined himself in a painting by Van Gogh, staring out at the star-filled sky.’

She Never Got to Wear Purple by Steph Ellis
Our man here is Francis, attempting to bridge the generation gap with poetry. Sad irony that his wife never got to wear purple when she was old, as her favourite poem advocated.
Fave line: ‘He knew the young regarded the elderly as an alien race.’

The Mover by Marie McKay
Looking back on his life and his gift, he is accepting and philosophical. Short but sweet, leaving much to the imagination, especially at the end.
‘Some days he still used it for his own amusement- a party trick for the man who never attended parties.’

Dad by Firdaus Parvez
Well-drawn characters of an elderly father and his adult son. Of course they can’t replace something that was a gift from a loved one but they still have each other and can laugh at the turns life takes.
‘We searched for a similar coffee mug and when we found one which looked quite like the old one, dad didn’t seem too happy.’

Don’t be a Mug by Avalina Kreska
The mugs in the picture are this man’s family reincarnated. Of course! Enjoyed the end when Tommy buys up all the mugs and tiles the bathroom with them and I’m left wondering if they will carry on talking to him.
‘ … the whole family agreed in a cacophony of spoons hitting ceramics.’

Runner Up
Don’t be a Mug – Avalina Kreska
For being the most unusual take on the prompt and making me laugh.

And our Round 112 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Marie McKay

with

The Mover

For being understated and leaving so much unsaid. ‘He’d been different and he’d enjoyed it’ takes on a whole new meaning when we realise this man’s gift involved making children fly through the air or sticking them to a wall.

Congratulations, Marie! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Next weekend, David Shakes steps back into the judge’s seat for Round 113. Hope to see you all then.

Welcome, writers, to Flash Frenzy Round 112. Your judge this weekend is Sal Page.

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, receive a winner’s page, and be crowned Flash Master of the Week.

Here is your prompt.

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photo courtesy Aswhin Rao

Medusa

by Steph Ellis

 

They called her Medusa for the writhing coils of tubing snaking from her head. These were the channels by which her immunising blood was stolen and fed to the bodies lying comatose in the beds beneath her. The nurses who waited on her were in no danger though – she was too weak from the never-ending leeching. The real dangers were hidden, by Asclep who had discovered her and by Medusa herself whose stony eyes glared at the prostrate forms, picturing them as the white-shrouded corpses by rights they should be. The image made her smile and the nurses stepped back, unsure. When she smiled, they knew she would start talking, had been warned not to listen to her; she had a way of getting inside your head.

Asclep had wanted to cut out her tongue but time had been short, he had had to start bleeding her straight away to prevent their own extinction from the plague sweeping through the population; Medusa had been regarded as a miracle, as God-given.

She suddenly twisted sharply and a section of tubing dislodged, her blood washing the world a rainbow of crimson and pink. A nurse tried to reattach them but Medusa struggled violently, deliberately forcing him to insert the needles into the veins on her left side.

“You should drink as well,” she whispered in the young man’s ear. “Take it,” she said. “It is my gift to you.”

He obeyed.

Too late, Asclep discovered the lifeless bodies, all now mere stone. Slowly he walked up to Medusa, saw how the tubing was attached to the wrong side of her circulatory system, to the blood that could only bring death; information he had not shared, fearing his treatment would be stopped.

“Drink,” she whispered.

Asclep looked again at his patients. As a reward for his life-saving work he had been allowed to treat his own family, immunise them against the plague. But now they all lay dead before him. He had nothing left. So he drank.

Medusa sighed and the coils writhed and loosened. Strengthened, she tore herself free from her shackles, stepped out into the world and washed the earth red.