Ghost Town Radio (Barnstorm)
by Steve Lodge

“Great stuff there. That was our three-in-a-row slot for the morning, listeners. First was The Silent Band, with Denis ‘Mule’ Edgar, trumpet, his brother Slut on sax, Aiden Goodwillie on drums and Rancid Weekes on piano with a number entitled ‘Silence Of The Harmonica.’ Then The Single Finger Tribe with ‘Chase The Pace’ and lastly for this hour it was Newly Hughes And The Loos with their big hit ‘One Man’s Plate.’ I’m Don Makemee and now it’s Weather Watch and I’m told it’s the Pitts. Our one and only, Judy Pitts. What have you got for the good people of the Peninsula region this hour, Judy?”

“It’s raining, Don,” replied Judy.

“These weather reports just get more and more technical. Now, listeners, got some news about our old friend, Limey Bennett. He’s reading some poems from his new anthology ‘Lime’s Disease’ tonight at a Poetry Slam at Carsons. Also there tonight will be Wolfgang Laemmle, the German film Director. And there’s an open mic spot too.”

“Anyway, if it sounds windy here it’s because I’m now standing outside the radio station with the delicious Judy Pitts. We’ve worked together here for six years, Judy. Don’t you just love the place?”

“Don,” she said. “It’s falling down. It has no redeeming features at all. It’s cold, damp, in the middle of nowhere, no road for 20 miles. In fact, listeners, as we speak, another piece of timber has fallen from the roof. It should be condemned. Don, I’m serious.”

“No, listeners, I’m the one who’s serious. Judy, darling, we’ve been together through thick and thin here at Ghost Town Radio. Now, as I look around, I see the first bunches of spring steens on the trees, with almond colouration and pink pigment. Nature is open to possibilities, are you, my love? I have planning permission to pull this place down and build a proper radio shack and living quarters. Oh, Judy, my love, it’s so exciting. Take this ride, this new adventure with me. I bought this for you, darling. I hope it fits your finger.”

“It’s a doughnut, Don.”

“It has a hole in the middle.”

Happy Tuesday, friends. As always, I appreciate everyone who submitted and commented on stories for sharing a few minutes of your weekend with me. Huge thanks to Ewan Smith for judging this week’s entries. You’ll find his comments and top picks below.

Ten strong entries this week by AHers inspired by a great photo from Ashwin Rao. It’s amazing how, in just a few hundred words, such individual narrative voices can be created. Good job, everyone.

Tornadoes and Toilets
Great title; the uncomfortable sounding combination neatly presages Mrs Veldhoen’s predicament. It was a light-hearted story told with a real lightness of touch. Very nicely done. And the last sentence made me laugh loud…

The Day After
I love the build-up of tension and mystery in this story. The reader is drawn on, not really knowing what’s happening but eager to find out more. When the reveal at the end does come, it’s very satisfying. As for “I’m mesmerised by the movement of what looks like an onion ring dangling from its nose.” Well, we’ve all woken up to morning afters like that (or is it just me…)

Starting Over
There is such a sense of love in this story. Not only between the narrator and Jill but also through the memories described which sketch out a reservoir of family support and caring stretching back a lifetime and longer. This is a story of hope for the future – it comes in many different forms but we all need it.

Wombling Free
“Underground, overground, wombelling free…” Thanks to this story, I now can’t get that song out of my head. Hmm. Dreams shattered, hopes destroyed, memories sullied – this story is Dostoyevskian in its scope, Shakespearian in its language, Austenian in its depiction of social mores and a right load of Trollopes into the bargain. Ach, I can’t lie to you, author…actually, it was funny and bittersweet and much more truthful than it pretended not to be.

Into The Blue
There’s an appealing strangeness to this story. An established relationship shattered with violence. Emotions repressed; emotions unleashed. The narrator a betrayer and murderer who justifies her actions: “I will always need to remind myself of that- you snapped first.” From the very first sentence, there is a sense of inevitability about a tragedy that just has to be played out. I like that.

When Rot Sets In
It’s not easy to sketch out a cataclysmic worldwide event which took place over years, link it to a small-scale human incident which occurs over minutes and then wrap up the story with portents of imminent disaster all within 360 words. But the writer of this story manages that with effortless skill. I’m only just a bit concerned about my own feeling of pleasure at the end that the young things would have the chance to fulfil their destiny (and in the process destroy humanity…)

HONOURABLE MENTION
The Morning Begins with a Hammer by Frank Key
This is such a nicely judged story. The conversation between the realtor and the buyer is wholly convincing and down-to-Earth; then you remember that it’s actually taking place in Heaven. There are lots of lovely linguistic touches; I particularly liked “the zephyrs of a primeval prairie”. And while the description of Eve with her vigorous sailor’s handshake and a farmer’s friendly “howdy-do” might not be entirely Biblical, it is entirely wonderful. A great read.

HONOURABLE MENTION
Blue Light by @JamboStewart42
“with a pitched roof like a shark’s dorsal riding the hilltop wave on the horizon.” When I read something like that, I know that it’s time to settle back in my chair and enjoy. I liked (a lot) the ideas in this story, particularly the thought that “Perhaps we never lived at all. Perhaps our existence was just on loan…” This is a good piece of flash fiction, but I think it has potential to be developed into something much more substantial. Ace.

RUNNER UP
I Have a House by Steph Ellis
I love the idea of the house being a character in the story with “Its jewellery of locks and bolts”. Fine description. There is real skill in the way the author takes the reader’s hand and leads him/her past a succession of increasingly stark images. As each paragraph is peeled away, a new layer of foulness is revealed. This is a chilling story with depth to its horror. Lovely work.

And our Round 127 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Steve Lodge

with

Ghost Town Radio (Barnstorm)

 

The first paragraph made me laugh so much; it took me right back to The Intro & The Outro from my student days. The whole piece is glorious nonsense, spun out of nothing. Yet it firmly establishes characters and setting, tells a complete story and has a hoot of an ending – all in no time at all. There is lots of craft going on beneath the surface hooey. And the dialogue – snappier than Snappy McSnapsnap the crocodile. A delicious thing to read.

Congratulations, Steve! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Requests for March judges will be going out shortly, but in the meantime, Marie Mckay will be back this weekend to judge Round 128. Hope to see you all there.

Happy Saturday, writers! Welcome to Flash Frenzy Round 127. This weekend we have another new judge, Ewan Smith.

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 Aswhin Rao

The Fierce Traditions Of Scotland

by Ewan Smith

“It’s all such crap, Homish,” Kirstie muttered in disgust, poking at the muddy ground with a stick. “They’re not even big; Scottish men are never big. But they’re prancing about in that show-ring with their muscles and their cabers and their heavy stones…”

The two of them were sitting on the grass leaning back against the wheels of a horsebox. Somewhere in the distance they could hear the cheers of the crowd, the tinny voice of the announcer.

“It’s 2017, for God’s sake!” she cried out. “All the political parties in this country are led by women. But here we are watching a bunch of oiled up men throwing trees around as if that’s some sort of basis for admiration.” Her mouth was writhing in a twisting sneer.

“Where are the women in that show-ring? Where are the gay men?”

Homish held up his hand with a grin. “Here, miss.”

She turned to him with a look of fury. “Don’t joke about yourself, Homish,” she said, her voice scalding in its intensity. “Don’t ever make yourself less than what you are.”

Homish smiled awkwardly and looked away. He had never known her to be so serious.

“You’re in a strange mood.”

She let out a loud groan of frustration. “This country is so fake. All our traditions were invented for the sake of the tourists. Bloody kilts. Have you ever seen anything as stupid as a Scottish Country Dance Competition? Our national drink with its pretend colour…”

“Is that Irn Bru you’re talking about?” grinned Homish.

In the distance, the crowd was starting to sing ‘Flower Of Scotland’.

“Oh God, that song!” cried Kirstie, hurling her stick at a nearby 4 x 4. “We even have a fake national anthem. It happened 700 years ago, for Christ’s sake!” She jumped to her feet in disgust, grabbing her roll of black bags and litter picker. “Come on, it must be finishing. Let’s go and earn our minimum wage.”

Homish stood up. “Jenny Geddes,” he called out, hurrying after her. “Flora McDonald – the Edinburgh Seven.”

“What are you gibbering about?”

Fierce women, he thought to himself; that tradition was true enough.

Happy Tuesday, writers, and Happy  Valentine’s Day. I wish I’d thought ahead and posted a more timely photo prompt. Despite this glaring oversite, you persisted! 😉  Many thanks to everyone who wrote stories last weekend, and thanks to Firdaus Parvez for judging. You’ll find her comments and top picks below.

This was my first time as a judge here and I cannot tell you what a pleasure and privilege it was, not to mention how difficult. It’s amazing how a picture prompt can be interpreted in so many ways. I loved all the stories and the poem at the end. Truly amazing.

The minute I laid eyes on the picture, I thought, what on earth is this man up to; it can’t be pole vaulting, he has a beam in his hands! The kilts gave away the fact that it had something to do with Scotland. Unfortunately, my knowledge about the nation stretched between kilts, bagpipes, the novel ‘Kidnapped’ by R L Stevenson and the 2008 Hollywood flick ‘Made of Honor’ (which I’m assuming had all the stereotypes and was highly exaggerated). So when the stories popped up I took a crash course on google about caber tossing. I’m an enlightened soul and I had so much fun.

The fun stopped when I had to choose the winner. There is very little between the ones I’ve chosen and the ones left out. It broke my heart. I wish I could give everyone a prize.

Honourable mention:

A Tipper, A Tosser by Frank Key

I love dialogues. This felt real and I could completely see it. The atmosphere, the night before the games, so palpable and exciting. The nervousness of the MC came through. The last lines tied the story to the picture perfectly. Well done!

Second Runner up:

Reverberations by Geoff Lepard

I laughed when I read this, then I felt like a sadist because people were dying. This is such a unique take on the prompt. A propulsion that could fly us to Mars in a week! Wow! No wonder the judge and the spectators vaporised. (I had this crazy thought then – with all the ‘gas’tronomical recipes we have back home, I’m surprised we don’t see Indians floating around in space. Just a thought.

First runner up:

Running Through The Fog by Steve Lodge

Okay, to be honest I did think the names to be true but they did sound ridiculous. Then I realised what a fabulous name faker the writer is. I loved the story. I loved the funny games (I’m convinced they’re real except leopard waxing er… maybe). The whole plot was ridiculously convincing. I had a good laugh. 2075 will be an amusing year when they dig up the time capsule. Very entertaining.

And our Round 126 Flash Master is

FLASH MASTER

Ewan Smith

with

The Fierce Traditions Of Scotland

When I read this I felt myself leaning against the wheels of a horsebox listening to the conversation between Kristie and Homish. I could almost hear the tinny voice of the announcer in the distance. What the writer managed to do was that instead of telling me what was happening, I was shown the whole scene. I think I could hear the song ‘Flower of Scotland’ too (which I promptly went and listened to on YouTube. Lovely accent). The last line held such a strong message. However trivial the rest of the traditions may sound, the traditions of the fierce women were true. Scotland does have a history of some very strong women. I’m a little embarrassed I had to google Jenny Geddes, Flora McDonald and the Edinburgh Seven. I have no excuse for my ignorance. This has been an eye opener. Thank you for that and well done.

Congratulations, Ewan! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Be sure to stop by next weekend as Ewan Smith steps up from the podium to try his hand at judging. Hope to see you all there.

Happy Saturday, writers! Welcome to Flash Frenzy Round 126. We have a first time judge this weekend, and it’s up to you to dazzle Firdaus Parvez so she’ll come back to judge again in the future.

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.

round 126

Photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

Staying

by Steph Ellis

 

The familiar cloying smell drifted in through the window. She didn’t need to look out the window to know that it was Kieran. Give him half-an-hour and he’d probably be slumped over his books puking his guts out. He didn’t disappoint. As Sue passed his classroom, she cast a sympathetic glance at her unlucky colleague now guiding him away from the desk.

She walked slowly, mentally running through the never-ending ‘to-do’ list, trying to prioritise tasks which were all urgent. Literacy interventions, differentiation of GCSE texts for the students she withdrew from class where the pace was relentless. Admin. Worries. The expectation of all that you would know as much as the teacher regardless of subject. Just a lowly teaching assistant.

Not for the first time she wondered why she remained. It certainly wasn’t for the money, her wages so dire she often felt it impossible to continue – especially the too frequent regularity with which unpaid time ate into home life. It definitely wasn’t for the difficult times – restraining a boy from hurling a fire extinguisher across the classroom, standing in front of another to protect him from a howling mob, walking around with the imprint of a fist in your side, working in isolation with a student whose violent outbursts put you at risk. No it wasn’t for that.

She glanced in at another classroom. A student looked up and waved and she smiled back. This was why she stayed. It was for the students whose eyes shone with pride and excitement when they’d read a book for the first time and wanted to try another; the students who suddenly wrote pages of a story when they’d never produced work before; the student who started to open up about home-life; the students who had no one.

And then just at the point when these were about to leave and she felt she could possibly walk away without guilt, she met the newcomers: hollow eyes, sad eyes, confused eyes … trusting eyes. And already she could feel that bond emerge, a fragile thing, wispy tendrils tying them together – so she held out her hand and stayed.