Round 33: Winners

Posted: September 2, 2014 in Winners
Tags: , , , , , ,

WOW! What a turn out! I could go on about how you all continue to amaze me, and how lucky I feel for your continued support in this endeavor, but the hour is late and Karl has comments for everyone, so let’s just cut to the chase. 😀

 

“How many?

Really?

19…

Wow.

Well, I did say I wanted everyone to enter this week, didn’t I?

Okay, I can do this, so long as I can get away with just judging and not giving comments on them all…”

(checks Twitter, spots Stella’s demand for comments)

“…oh, go on then…”

Stella – Happiness
Stella gives us our first wish in the fountain, and it seems like a sweet natured, happy ever after kind of deal, with our plain speaking protagonist – a Stella hallmark – finally being swept off her feet by a Burl Ives lookalike. But that last paragraph, with its mentions of miracles, Heaven and a surely long-dead mother, suggests a more final dance. It’s a credit to Stella’s grounded realism that this bittersweet moment of romance and release is delivered so believably.

David Shakes – Tuppence
Shakes hides his magic well, but it’s there, both in the story he weaves and the language he uses to tell it. Encrusted with cynicism and a worn-out acceptance of the real world, the tale nevertheless glitters like the faeces-covered coin of the title. Talking of council owned deities and laying the responsibility for his wife’s remission firmly in the hands of the medical profession, the protagonist seems almost to be trying too hard to disavow the magical, but in his final, whispered thanks, he shows us the small miracle which has been there all along.

Joshua Bertetta – Setting Things Straight
In setting things straight, J Bertetta gives the mythical water-gazer Narcissus the opportunity to rebuke his detractors, starting with the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Despite the millennia which have passed since he spurned Echo and fell foul of Nemesis, our narrator has a surprisingly modern voice and an extremely well constructed rationalisation for his actions. It’s just a shame for Narcissus (and a delight for the reader) that his protests reveal him to be as self absorbed as ever…

Emily June Street – It All Floats By
In Emily’s tale, the sacred and the profane exist side by side, the penitents prostrating themselves even as they eye the next Cola stand. The heat and the dust are oppressively rendered, the tale’s language as dense and crowded as the thronged Basilica. When we finally break out into a moment of quiet and peace, it is with a sense of relief, and a feeling of something about to happen. In the end, it is little more than a brief conversation, mostly in a foreign tongue, but Emily’s light touch transforms this exchange into a modern parable, before returning her protagonist to his Cola stands and certainty.

Voima Oy – Exit Strategy
Voima’s protagonist, Jerry Poole, is a nice, old fashioned guy in an unpleasant modern world. He’s not that far from Willy Loman, been with the bank for so many years, still has a kind word for the kid from the copy centre (and what a telling detail that is, that he not only knows Clark’s name but also his outside interest in music), and there’s something crushingly inevitable about his dismissal. The world is not made for men like Jerry, and they can’t survive in it for long, or so it seems. But in one of those bait and switch tricks that Flash fiction handles so well, Voima reveals that her poetic elegy to a dying breed of drab salarymen is in fact no such thing; Voima’s a Chicagoan after all, and this is a hard boiled crime story straight from that most Mobbed up of cities. The final, fading image of Jerry, heading off to his new life, left me grinning long after I’d finished reading.

Dr Magoo – Untitled
Dr Magoo – Eric to his friends – excels at world building, and this nameless piece does a great job of sketching in scientific discovery, intergalactic warfare, capitulation and post-war reconstruction, all in 359 words. The forward momentum is relentless, with the developments piling up as quickly as the questions; what is the portal? who are the Caithans? what did Stan’s father do to deserve his nickname? We don’t get any answers, but that’s okay, because Eric is quickly setting us up for phase two, and a promise of unfinished business to be settled.

Mark A. King – The Street Faerie of Kolkata
In The Street Faerie of Kolkata, the life of an Indian street orphan is recast as epic fantasy, seen through the eyes of a brutalised child. The punishment she receives – for the crimes of being poor and female – are mercifully kept from the page, but in her childish description of her brother’s “raggedy and lifeless body” we catch a glimpse of the horror she has endured. When she is promised respite by an ethereal Mother Teresa, we can only hope that she too will grow to become one of the angels; far too many never make it that far.

Image Ronin – The Thinker
In a bittersweet tale, reminiscent of I Am Legend or Coupland’s Girlfriend In A Coma, Image Ronin’s Arthur wanders the almost empty streets of a post-cataclysm world. He searches for answers, for explanations, for Pot Noodles, but more than anything, he searches for a reason to let go. His mother’s chiding wasn’t enough and neither was her departure, nor the loneliness, isolation and feral dog packs of this strange new world. Perhaps tomorrow Arthur will find his reason to go, but I somehow doubt it.

Maryann Holloway – Faded Memory
Faded Memory is a short, playful piece, told in breathless, run on dialogue. Small details like the Newton’s Cradle help to flesh it out on the run up to a neat twist that begs plenty more questions.

Casey Rose Frank – Payment
Told in short, staccato sentences, this is one of the most striking looking pieces this week, the layout arresting the eye even before Casey’s words get to work. And what work they do. The slowly unfolding riddle is told in sense impressions, confused remembrances and guesses, and we guess along with the nameless man on the island. With each new revelation, we reassess our understanding of the tale, until we are left with only one thought; wherever he is, however he got there, he deserves it.

Tom Smith – The Fountain
This is a wonderfully cruel take on the prompt, with poor old Yassel granting wishes and hoping for a selfless request to lift him from the doldrums. When he thinks that he’s finally found one, the stage is set for a truly starling, laugh out loud twist ending.

Liz Hedgecock – The Maker
As artists, we’ve probably all gone too far at one time or another; the stomach twisting horror story which seemed so good when you submitted it at 3am or the roman a clef where the characters are nowhere near as cleverly disguised as you thought. In The Maker, we meet a sculptor who’s artistic efforts take him all the way to the gallows, but who describes the steps which take him there with such joy and triumph that it almost seems worth it.

Catherine Connolly – Drowning Deep
Cath takes flash fiction to its ultimate conclusion here, expanding a microcosmic moment to fill practically the whole story, then pulling back at the last to reveal a classic twist ending. What makes it work so well is the sheer flood of words which Cath unleashes upon her readers, a torrent of startling images, painful expressions and curiously medical terminology that threatens to overwhelm us and leave us as stunned and breathless as poor old Lana…

Pratibha – Cell Mates
Cell mates is a tale of longing, rebellion and release, a very modern story of abusive and controlling relationships, but it is also so much more than that. In the chance encounter between two lonely souls, we find a fable that reminds us of how strongly we can impact those around us, often without ever realising it. While the mystery man is the catalyst for our imprisoned protagonist’s great escape, it appears that she in turn gave him something even greater.

Beth Deitchman – Apologies
Andrew’s got it bad. In Beth’s skilfully executed domestic drama, we see just how badly as he struggles through a long, lonely lunch hour, caught between his desire and his self disgust. As he waits, silent but for a pair of exasperated outbursts, we follow his internal argument and wonder if Ellen will ever arrive, and if she does, just which way Andrew will jump. When Ellen does appear, Beth perfectly captures the tension and tenderness which accompanies Andrew’s surrender. Poor guy.

Amy Wood – LoveStruck
Love Struck features another take on the worldly-wise mythological creature, in this case a pair of Cupids named Angelo and Brian. As they quibble good naturedly about their work and Angelo’s s youthful mistakes, we catch a glimpse into the first blush of true (or at least new) love as our coin tossing man meets his perfect match. But it’s in the closing words, in Angelo’s plaintive longings, that we find the tale’s true heart.

Marie McKay – The Meeting
Maria’s tale is a short, sweet natured tale of new hope and old fashioned romance. The tiny details here – notes written in long hand, the ever present empty chairs which accompany the singleton – are what bring the piece to life and leave us hoping that Harold and his blind date have many wonderful outings ahead of them.

Craig Sinclair – A Little Dip
Full disclosure: the talented Mr. Sinclair is a close friend and occasional creative partner of mine… In his tale, we find a common office drone, trapped in an endless cycle of work and self-loathing lunch breaks. As he dreams of release, of surrendering to the weakness he thinks controls him, he is drawn back from the brink by dull routine and the weight of commitments. The final line is a deeply cynical acceptance of the status quo, and an admission that it will never change.

Carlos Orozco – Memories
In our final tale this week, Carlos sketches in the remains of a dying town, populated by the poor, the proud and the dead. In the middle of this still, quiet, square stands an equally quiet man, reminiscing on how it came to be this way. With a small wish and a much larger sacrifice, John offers himself in the hope of saving the town. Whether his wish will be granted or not, I for one will be haunted by that perfect, powerful ending for some time to come.

As ever, I have loved judging, and I have found something startling, original, hysterical, heartbreaking or magical in each and every one of your stories. But even with such a bumper crop, we can’t give out 19 winner’s badges, so I’ve had to make a decision.

In third place, for his gleefully dark comedy, it’s Tom Smith for The Fountain.

In second place, for her unique take on the corporate raider, it’s Voima Oy with Exit Strategy.

And in first place, because I’m a sucker for a good tale of unspoken devotion and because the back and forth interplay of stolen snacks was so cute…

Your week 33 Flash Master is…

FLASH MASTER

Amy Wood

and her Cupids in LoveStruck.

And now I’m going for a long lie down…

Thank you, Karl for your time, energy and comments!

Congratulations, Amy! Your story will be featured tomorrow as the HumpDay Quickie. Please contact me here with any bio information, publications, links to personal sites, or any other information you would like to appear on your winner’s page.

Thanks all! We’ll see you again this weekend! Judge TBA

Cheers!

 

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