Happy Tuesday, it’s time for winners. Speaking of winners, I’d briefly like to announce (for those of you who are interested and have not already heard) that last week I received an email from the American Board of Pathology informing me that I have passed both of my board exams and am now a board certified pathologist! I appreciate all the kind words and understanding from the flash community earlier this year when The Angry Hourglass was on hiatus while I was studying for the aforementioned exams.

Enough about me. Catherine Connolly was our judge this weekend and she has many words about YOU. Here they are!

It was a pretty difficult task judging Angry Hourglass last time for me and second time around you guys have made it even harder, if that’s possible!  This week’s photo prompt provided a wealth of stories with themes including (but certainly not limited to!) ageing and death and emotions ranging right from tongue in cheek to horror and geographical realms, including those reaching skyward..

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to write for me and making me mull over my decisions so carefully.  Genuinely, any one of the stories could have placed without difficulty this week, which is no mean feat!

With that in mind, I’ve commented on all stories:-

“Circles” is beautifully written, utilising plain, spare prose in its tale of the unnamed narrator who climbs towards his “splendid” windmill daily at 6 am on the dot.  There is a wealth of detail within just 181 words and we gain a clear impression of the man’s longstanding love and affection for “her”. The personification of the windmill, with her “latticed blades” and “giant vanes” is a wonderful way of emphasising the close relationship between man and landmark, to the extent that they become coupled together within the prose through linguistic choices.  Language is key to this piece – from the mirror image of the shoes polished to a “reflection” and bow tie “symmetry”, to the circular passage of time and similar circles of the windmill’s blades.  Wonderful work.

The tone for “Charging at Windmills” is seemingly set from the first paragraph, with Gerald striding forth, umbrella bearing, courtesy of Shank’s Pony.  I loved the references to knights errant, as our protagonist apparently goes forth to slay his particular and personal “giant”.  I found myself feeling for Gerald, as he comes into close quarters with his Dulcinea and all becomes clear to be reader and character alike.  Particularly once Betty takes relatively quick consolation in the opportunity to waddle off with Bert to the afternoon Bingo, despite her apparent feelings beforehand!

The relationships in “Top Room of the Windmill House” are wonderfully observed – showing not telling us about our characters.  The feeling Nora has for the as yet unnamed inhabitant of the top room of the windmill house in the title is in her fretting at the curtain as the storm approaches and gussying up of the silo room – contrasting with Vincent’s emphatic confirmation he is not Jasper’s father later in the piece.  His uneasy relationship with their resident grey shadow is in the clenching of his jaw as he endures the chill of contact; a gesture to enable all of those dwelling within the windmill to enable their co-existence more easily.  Nicely done.

“A Miller’s Tale” is a lovely story of father and son, with son outstripping father once he has been taught to tune the sails until they sing (beautiful description!)  The suggestion that a step is being added to the climb each year is a wonderful way of emphasising the passage of time subtly – as is the reference to the father’s wet face; ostensibly due to the failings of his traitorous umbrella.  The image of father and son, wives buried below but remaining faithful and married to the wind (“always”), is a powerful one – particularly when tied in partnership with the endless turn of the sails.  A beautifully observed ending.

I loved the characterisation of Kees in “The Keeper” as a frequenter of Tasting Houses, about whom gossip concerning his name “swirled” (very apt phrasing!) – particularly given the contrast with his stiff and broken knees as he faces the journey home post Jenever.  (Jenever is also well observed for this particular judge!) We feel empathy for Kees as he stumbles towards what we sense has been inevitable and fact that he has sought brief escape from it..  The final image of Kees alone, having trudged up the many steps to the windmill, contrasts with his preceding travels around the village – although even in the midst of apparent company, Kees is a man who has deliberately kept himself at arm’s length from those who do not understand him.  The breaking of the waves on the rocks accompanies the breaking of Kees’ heart as he bids his beloved farewell.  Well done.

There’s a wonderfully tongue in cheek tone to the start of “Philosophy 101”, given a number of serious pieces this week.  I couldn’t help laughing at the intro classes taught by a professor named Staff – plus Levi Strauss blue jeans!  I could clearly picture Dr. Farley too (who couldn’t?!) courtesy of the John Cleese tie in.  I think everyone’s been taught by a “character” teacher at some point too!  There’s a nice analogy in the reference to the narrator’s crush on Dr. Farley as a “first draft”, given the preceding one to dreams and illusions in connection with romance.  Clearly, there’s going to be a better endeavour in the narrator’s future!

“Departure Time” presents us with the “chance for new beginnings” in a world of wondrous technology (worldwide information nets – imagine!), set out by the smooth talking owner of a gunpowder beard with honeysuckle eyes (great descriptions!)  I really enjoyed the concept of the windmill as a method of transportation through the ages and fact that the narrator found it impossible to leave the somewhat peevish Felix behind.  Nice characterisation.

Lots of great sound references in “Things In Common”, which tie in with the way Ronan is haunted by the ghosts which clamour in his head like non-musical ear worms, “chattering” to make themselves heard.  Added to that, Ronan’s afflicted by the drone of mankind for all his meditation and chanting – small wonder he’s attracted by a self-confessed witch who might have some spells and tricks of her own!  I can just picture the two of them flying over the rooftops if Ronan’s date can manage to drown out his voices with the sound of her own!  Great ending.

“The House That Derek Built” starts with a “Field of Dreams” style vibe, as Derek builds a windmill after losing his son and to deal with his grief.  The reference to loss is cleverly done, given we read the reference to disappearance as death, for the story’s purposes.  However, things take a different turn (pun intended – blame judging pressures for the lack of originality!) as Derek takes to the skies in search of his missing son by the conclusion of the piece.  I have to hope with such dedication Derek proves successful in his mission and brings him home to the no doubt taken aback Melissa..  Nice story.

We get a clear picture of waitressing from the repetition of “service” in the opening paragraph of “Coffee and Headlines”, right down to the “service with a smile”.  Nicely observed!  The dialogue flows easily back and forth between Jack and Rebecca and a more ominous tone creeps in as they discuss the apparent Act of God lightning strike to the windmill.  I really enjoyed the reference to leaving for “unforeseen circumstances”, as I could tell where the story was going by that point in time but enjoyed it all the more for being privy to Jack’s secret whilst Rebecca remained oblivious.  Great story with very few words.

A really great horror story in “This Is Really Him”, which starts off all cafes and cake and admiration for Danny’s assets, before becoming something a whole lot more sinister.  I liked the way the story made the journey from light through to dark, along with the character’s climb up the steps.  Our narrator should have stuck to her guns and gone with the coffee, as opposed to walking up to the windmill – although I do admit a slight bias where coffee is concerned…  The final paragraph ups the ante courtesy of the howling rotten teeth and clutching bony fingers.  Ultimately, we as reader, too, are trapped with the narrator in the final words, having nowhere to escape as she(?) confronts a nightmarish possibility.

“The Forecast Calls For Rain” – brilliant title to fit with the story!  Nice twist on the concept of the Ark, with Donovan voting to save solely himself, despite the impending floods.  I loved the tongue in cheek musical references for the reader’s benefit, foreshadowing where the story was going.  Plus, something this particular Poised Pen member is hardened to due to previous fictional occurrences – cats in peril!  (Poor ballast!)  Additionally, I’m presuming Cheryl, may well meet an untimely end too (albeit “off screen”!) for storytelling purposes!  Great story and nice ending.

There’s a wonderful world in “Protected” that I’d love to explore further, with its guardian protector who raises questions concerning both need and the reasons he scares those he is apparently watching the horizon (and any apparent threats) on behalf of.  Where does the other one come from and where do these structures originate from?  How long have they stood guard over the inhabitants?  Moreover, I want to know which one won!  This has the makings of a longer and highly original off-kilter piece.  Tell it to me, please!

Great world building in “Vocation” within only 204 words.  I liked the fact that this story provided a completely different slant on the photo prompt and the use of nude statues as a means of justifying a new form of living statue.  Plus – great catchphrase in “If you move, it’s rude!”, with the sinister tone,  courtesy of the watchful eye, to ensure none of the “statues” move a muscle.  Great irony in the final paragraph and a real sense of our narrator there too.  Nicely done.

Getting to the hard part and because there must be winners for the week, I kept the winners list short this week – simply because it took long enough to try and pick any!  (Once again, great job all).

Runner Up – “Top Room of the Windmill House” by Nancy Chenier for its nuanced portrayal of relationships and the concessions made for them in the interests of love.

Runner Up – “The Forecast Calls For Rain” by A.J. Walker for fitting a well depicted story into 360 words and for incorporating musical references as a means of foreshadowing.

And our Round 72 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Marie McKay

with

“Circles”

-for incorporating language so effectively within such a small word limit and creating an affecting portrayal of the central relationship which made me re-read more than once to experience the tale again. Well done!

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

Next weekend our judge will the lovely and talented Ms. Foy Iver. Hope to see you all there.

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Comments
  1. Pattyann McCarthy says:

    Fantastic! Congratulations to ALL the winners! Very well-deserved! And, a big THANK YOU to Catherine for judging our whispering words on windmills! You did a terrific job. 🙂

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