Posts Tagged ‘Ewan Smith’

Happy Tuesday, writers! Thanks to everyone who wrote and submitted stories last weekend. I hope everyone enjoyed the free for all. Thanks also to David Shakes for judging the submissions. You’ll find his comments and top picks below.

Return of the Monster

“What’s on Your Coffee Table” would really make a genuinely decent show! Pitch it, Stephen, pitch it! The characters’ names hint at details unwritten and the playfully bizarre tone really appealed.

Man Toes

My first question would be – how did Rebekah come across this picture to begin with? A brilliantly woven tale, a slow reveal and expert writing as usual.

The Devil’s New Job

How cool of Carol to write a sequel to her fantastic THE INFERNAL CLOCK story and afford me the opportunity of plugging our new anthology! You don’t need to know the characters to enjoy this story – but it helps! Suitably creepy – loved the boxing up idea!

Overlooking The River

I remember writing a few years back that Patrick would be a writer to watch. This was wonderful in its imagery and the building tension, just to have the rug pulled. I so wish I could see that prompt. Nice one Patrick.

The Poet Goes to the Shops

Dirty carrots?! The poet’s lines, in isolation, contain some lovely phrases and ideas but in the context of the overall tale just add to the beautiful absurdity. A sketch waiting to be filmed I feel. Hilarious.

Big Richard

Where did those character names come from?! Great narrative voice and another (subtle) nod to our new anthology, THE INFERNAL CLOCK which is now available as a Kindle edition and a paperback. I really love this story – what more can I say? A great mix of genres, a strong narrative voice.

Dreams

Is it wrong that I can follow Steph’s line of thought from brick house, to little pigs to evil child? Maybe we’ve worked to closely on THE INFERNAL CLOCK (have I mentioned our anthology?!) I loved where this went. Dark as ever, Steph, very dark indeed.

Confessions of a Portal Guardian

I do like this Voima! The narrative is so good and the last paragraph’s moment of suspense is a brilliant way to end. We both like a portal don’t we? Recurring theme for you and I. Deft storytelling and most satisfying.

Painting Your Troubles Away

I hope that Angelique’s paintballing experience was the only real-life inspiration here! I loved the line:

Revenge would not be sweet, but salty, like her sweat and his tears.’

I may have to steal that at some point! Great twist with the punchbag and the tough (but not life-threatening) paintball plan. Well done Angelique.

 I AM A GOD

Oh unreliable narrator, what to make of you? Brian – you’ve written a good one here. The tone is perfect. I am still undecided – deluded nutter or fallen god? That’s what makes this a cracking tale. I know that Brian’s a marvel fan and this felt like Marvel movie humour – he knows that’s a compliment.

Wasn’t My Fault

I like the idea that Len from next door is the keeper of the lexicon for this salt of the earth narrator. The date of this little round did not escape Stella here and she used it to great comic effect. Obviously, this lot are from Coventry though – that sort of malarkey would never happen in Solihull darling!

Whenever I judge these things, commonalities begin to assert themselves. Great narrators and protagonists seemed to be a strong theme this week. Comedy in all its forms too. A great set of tales and impossible to judge on merit alone. I’ve gone from the gut:

2nd Runner Up:  Overlooking The River by Patrick Stahl for its imagery and poignant ending.

1st Runner Up: The Poet Goes to the Shops by Ewan Smith for the rhythm and juxtaposition in this one.

And our ROUND 133 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Rebekah Postupak

with

Man Toes

Rebekah is back with a show don’t tell tour de force!

Congratulations, Rebekah! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Thanks again to everyone who wrote and to Shakes for judging. Next weekend, Jaime Burchard returns to judge round 134. Hope to see you all there.

Happy Tuesday, writers! Thanks much to everyone who submitted and commented on stories this pas weekend. Thanks also to Sal Page for commenting and making the tough choices. You’ll find her top picks below.

A man holding a microphone, with a raised arm. Who is he? What’s he doing? Well, you came up with a wide variety of different interpretations. Amongst other things, he was a singer, a motivational speaker, a footballer collecting an award, a volunteer for a space mission, a grieving father and there were, coincidentally, a pair of onstage renditions of ‘Happy Birthday’ earning each the coveted Ham Sandwich Award. Congratulations!
Good work all round and so hard deciding which to place, which is why I ended up with three HMs. Don’t make me do this again …

Glory Song
A lovely celebration of the reasons for and the power of music, through the character of the singer. I like the varied sentence lengths, the line ‘The rhythmic stamping of feet rises to a crescendo and only the earth beneath his feet hears’ and the idea of ‘inviting the world in.’ This flash itself, all in one paragraph, also rises to a crescendo, reiterating that this man always sings.

We Believed
The narrator goes to see a motivational speaker and is convinced by him. ‘I heard the tiredness in my own voice’ is the moment of them coming down from the euphoria of the event, the realisation that there was nothing specific being spoken about. It was about being caught up in the moment. There are hints that all is not as it seems; he’s ‘dangerous’, a ‘master salesman’, ‘Dad says he’s a fraud.’ And now the moment’s gone, maybe, as the pleasing ending indicates, eating cake with friends is just as good.

Alexander Thompson Jr.
This whole story enfolds in an impassioned speech by the father of a drunk driver victim. ‘I will never feel his small hand in mind as we head to the ball game’ he tells his audience, going on to eloquently stress what this boy with the same name as him has missed out on by being killed and to persuade those listening to join him in his campaign in his son’s name.

One Day the Muse Spoke to Him
Bus driver Jeron’s muse is an old lady who is a bit like his grandmother. She knows things about him. His poetry, for one. I love her persuasive speech about the Open Mic, especially the line ‘You with your poems about pigeons and skinny kids’ which really made me smile. As did the ending when his muse is in the audience as he performs. Hope I meet her on a bus one day.

Things Can Only Get Better
George is infatuated with singer Reggie, born out in sentences like ‘He ached for the next time while dreading its arrival.’ He’s supported in his infatuation by his sweet sister Pelly, who organises a concert trip for his birthday where he goes up on stage and, never mind things can only get better, it’s more like dreams can come true. Though we don’t yet know why Reggie is inviting him to his dressing room and can only speculate.

Honourable Mention
The First by Mark A. King
A veteran footballer – the first black player – rebels against the problems of racism and homophobia in the sport by rejecting his lifetime achievement award. When he remembers racial abuse he says it didn’t ‘throw him off his game’ as fans of the opposing team might hope for, but ‘he used it like Popeye used spinach.’ Wonderful! And, as he has ‘grabbed the microphone’, it leaves the reader speculating on what he is about to say.

Honourable Mention
Can’t Hear Ourselves Think by Sian Brighal
Set decades into the future and narrated by the owner of a rare photo of a black person. We aren’t fully told what has happened but can surmise, from such lines as the shocking ‘Eighteen months in a detention centre at the age of twelve for the crime of searching GlobalNet for ‘black person’ and the reference to ‘cleansing repentant fires.’ The words on the back of the photograph ‘Did you hope we’d lose our voice?’ reminds me of the belief of slave traders that those people whose descendants went on to form the African diaspora would just forget their culture. Then, a hopeful ending, an implication of online communications and the realisation that the narrator is black in ‘we’re louder than ever.’ Of course …

Honourable Mention
Strange Band by Steve Lodge
These memories of a local band made me laugh, beginning with the absurd but still kind of believable lyrics to Cold Hands. Once heard never forgotten I’m sure. This piece contains some lovely phrases; the pleasing and economical description ‘dreadlocked and jetlagged’, the sentiment behind ‘It may have been a rat hole but it was our rat hole’ and the repetition of ‘gutted’ using the two slightly different meanings. And then, despite the humour throughout (I missed ‘Lost Vegas’ during the first reading!), a sad, end-of-a-era ending.

2nd Runner Up
Bernard’s Brilliant Ideas by Ewan Smith
This one made me laugh. It felt like an episode of a dodgy but fun sitcom. And I LOVE sitcoms of many different types. It gave me that feeling you get from sitcoms of wanting to stop these daft characters from their silly ideas. Cringing & laughing at the same time (Why don’t they just let themselves be inspected? Because it wouldn’t be funny, that’s why.) Full of good dialogue, ridiculous but fun. Feels like a very complete story as the three suggested ideas give way to the punchline, what Bernard actually did. Kidnapping the entire inspection team? Who says Bernard’s ideas aren’t brilliant?

1st Runner Up
The Stranger’s Voice by Frank Key
Our guy is making a speech about how he’s been accepted after arriving as a stranger. But its cut short. This flash surprised me. Twice. Surprise One: the crowd sing happy birthday. He realises ‘as much as he liked listening to the sound of his own voice, the unified sound from other, he like more.’ It’s a lovely moment, utterly spoiled by Surprise Two: the shock of the authorities coming to take away this man who’s become a part of his community and isn’t a stranger.

And our Round 131 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Steph Ellis

with
Penance

This needed a couple of readings for me to totally ‘get’ but when I did … what a whole lot of story it is. As much as I like funny, I like proper tragic too, as this certainly is. I like the way it makes excellent use of the raised hand in the prompt picture. And then there’s the countdown to blast off, as we gradually find out through his reliving what happened as the numbers count down, why he’s so keen to volunteer for a space mission, ‘a one way journey into the unknown’, he knows he will not survive. Penance indeed.

Congratulations, Steph! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay quickie. Thanks again to Sal for judging. Next weekend Voima Oy returns to judge round 132. Hope to see you there.

Hello again! As promised, here’s today’s second winner’s post! Thanks to everyone who wrote stories and to Steph Ellis for being more on top of judging than I was this past week. You’ll find her comments and top picks below.

Oh dear. You all certainly made me work this week and on a Monday night too. I had to read and reread a few times before I could make up my mind – and even then I kept chopping and changing placings. There really wasn’t a lot in it, especially between the Winner and the 1st RU and the 2nd RU, and oh, did I mention the HMs and those who didn’t get placed but were great as well? But in the end my choices covered the range of elements that get me every time – some were dark, some were moving, some were written by poets. What more could I ask for?

Golden Daffodils

Great fun, wonderful names and the line “Read it, buffoon, or I will eat your slab and urinate on your coiling” is inspired.  And don’t forget the puns ‘a host of Golden Daffodils’ meaning a totally different thing in this case!

War Games

A slow dawning that these are not quite the war games I expected, a child’s perspective on the weekly shop with them making the most of any edible opportunities – as kids will. I’m glad those days are behind me. Standout line: “If I’m holding a wedge of cheddar, it’s safe. German salami? It’s over – save yourself.”

Marked

This intriguing story hints at things rather than coming straight out and telling you what’s going on so that you can put your own interpretation on it. The mark is a visible representation of whatever events had occurred the night before – sex, drugs, something supernatural – it is for the reader to decide. But whatever happened, it has happened to so many others, it’s normal, plenty of others were ‘Marked’ and Jess would deal with the consequences of it in her own, brave way.

Eyes

Eyes are the one thing I’ve found that adds an extra something to any piece of dark writing, they certainly have the ‘cringe’ factor. Her fetish whilst not yet being the death of her – “Your fetish with eyes is going to be the death of you, my dear,” – is certainly the death of others.

Captured

Poor man, wanting to live the life of a hermit and then getting captured. I think there was an element of pride coming before a fall here, he was a little too cocky ‘sauntering’ to the door, then falling over the tripwires which he had claimed to know all about.

Those Eyes

The eyes have it – or not, in the case of this couple they are hiding so much – the ‘story waiting to be told’, a future built on lies and deceit, liar’s eyes. I wonder how much their desire for fame is going to keep them together.

Camouflage

A dangerous woman here, manipulative, setting the scene for a perfect murder. Not someone to be crossed. A lot is conveyed in a very short story.

HM: A Sword in the Hand by Angelique Pacheco

Beautifully descriptive piece: phrases such as the sword was ‘heavy and burdened with many a tale,’ ‘when I was sixteen and the lotus began to bloom,’ ‘rain poured down in silver sheets,’ all set the scene and tone perfectly. I like the way that although it finishes with him waiting for his attackers, for me it implies – because this story is being told some years later and he still has his sword – the younger version of Grandfather had fought of his attackers and won.

HM: The Confusing Nature of Student Life by Ewan Smith

Entertaining story focusing on those rites of passage we all have to go through with parents. Showing them we’re adult enough to have a drink, a partner, they’re reaction as they have to let go of the child and accept the adult. This was done with great humour and warmth and it was a nice twist that the blacking was accidental rather than a particular fashion statement.

2nd RU: The Poet Brigade and the Elixir of Truth by Richard Edenfield 

Gorgeous language and turns of phrase in this story. A tale of hope and the aspiration to change things using words, ‘feathered bullets bleached with an unfettered pride’ as youth and Ms Williams takes on Trump. Wonderful that there are those who have such visions and dreams although I’m not quite sure what Trump’s reaction would be. I think perhaps something from Mother Goose might be more at his level!

1st RU: Garden Party by Sal Page 

A very grim but extremely well-written piece. The pacing was perfect, drawing the reader on as the would-be victim turns the tables on her assailant and comes out the victor. The first line draws you in right away “He’s supposed to be dead but he’s staring at me,” sign-posting a wonderfully dark story is on its way. Plus there are elements that are blackly humorous “His kilt is still up around his waist, the sporran skewiff. No idea where the orange wig and tartan cap are.”

And our Round 130 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

K.M. Zafari

with

“Homecoming”

This is such a sad, but uplifting, story. The initial feeling that perhaps there is an element of estrangement between the children and their father changes as they dig through old memories and put them in perspective. It is the difference in the eyes of the younger, carefree footballer compared to the eyes of the soldier that reveals the truth, the effect that war can have on a person and subsequently their loved ones. The eyes have given Jace the understanding he needs to try and bridge the gap with his father, despite the latter’s dementia. Moving.

Congratulations, K.M.! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s second HumpDay Quickie!

Thank you again everyone for contributing your time and talents, especially our judges. The Angry Hourglass truly could not exist without your efforts. Next weekend, Sal Page is back for another round of judging. Hope to see you all there.

Happy Tuesday writers! Here is the unfashionably late Round 129 winners post. Many thanks to the patient writers who submitted last week and also to judge Ewan Smith. You’ll find his comments and top picks below.

The photo from Ashwin Rao this week shouted the word “Relationship”. Nine AHers responded with cracking stories.

A Certain Tomorrow
This is a story of waiting and, as such, not a great deal happens. But the author skilfully builds up the feel of impending fate. There is a wonderful sense of Laura having become disconnected from her body which is now little more than a physical shell. Soon, she will be disconnected from Jeff entirely but for the moment the two of them just hold on, waiting for the Certain Tomorrow. Very moving.

The Broken Spoons
I love the wheels within wheels aspect of this with a real image being fictionalised both externally and internally by the story. (Does that make sense? Well I know what I mean…) Great natural dialogue and there really should be a band called The Broken Spoons. I just wonder if that’s a reference to the couple spooning in the picture…hmm…

The Quarrel
A violent relationship under stress; always an opportunity for sparks – and anything else at hand – to fly. By starting the story in the middle of a furious argument, the author hooks the reader straight off. I did like the idea of Mike lying awake half the night worrying where Jessie was when she was asleep on the sofa in the next room all along. Lots of swirling emotions there.

Holding The World In Your Arms
The story of an abused narrator whose personality has been systematically ground up and destroyed. “…with every explosion a little more of me turned to ash, my soul as empty as any Pompeian plaster cast.” Driven by the wish for revenge, or perhaps simply the need to end the fear, she poisons the abuser and finds her own resolution in death. Although set in modern times, there is a mythical quality to this story that is deeply satisfying.

Loving Whole
I like the sense in this story of the fragility of life. A sliver of inattention, a moment of carelessness and the world becomes engulfed by grief. The image of the girl found dead with the phone still in her hand, message showing, is a strong one. There is a lot packed into the story and it has a great structure with the brief final sentence taking the reader right back to the start. A good read.

If The Bar Burns Down, The Rain Gonna Cry All Night
A really entertaining spoof biography of everyone’s favourite child star, Piril “Dame Judy” Quench. The humour is perfectly judged throughout so that I felt, somewhere at the back of my mind, that I really did remember a TV series called Knackers Yard. (Oh – and I’m going to steal “implausibly lovely” to use in my CV.)

HIGHLY COMMENDED: Profile Pix by David Shakes
A lovely story. From the off, the simple descriptions are very evocative, giving an immediate sense of place. The lack of emotion and intensity in the narration only magnifies the unfolding horror. The structure of the story is so elegant; I love the single short sentences between the paragraphs like a solemn drumbeat of commentary. And the clarity throughout – gorgeous.

HIGHLY COMMENDED: As The Sun Goes Down by A.J. Walker

Now this is funny! There’s the first narrator having his perfect romantic moment by the lake – well, apart from the mosquitoes, the winos and the screaming children. Then the second narrator with two mozzies up her nose feeling as unromantic as it’s possible to be. Brilliant. The contrast between their physical closeness and their mental distance gives the story such energy. It made me laugh at 6.53 on a Monday morning – there ain’t no greater praise than that.

and our Round 129 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

J.R. Hershberger

with

“Sisters”

Two sisters; one betrayed, the other aching with her pain. Unable to face the grief of the present, they retreat into the past and into a childhood game they once shared. Time passes and only when they are ready do they return to reality. I love the way that this is a story about something mentioned in passing at the start and then barely referred to again. It’s as if we readers, like the sisters, can’t face the agony of the betrayal; we’d rather think about playing Rotten Tomatoes instead. The more I read this, the more it grew on me. A super piece of writing.

Congratulations, J.R.! Your story will be featured as one of tomorrow’s Hump Day Quickies! Stay tuned for the Round 130 winner’s post which will be along shortly for this week’s Twofer Tuesday!

Happy Saturday, writers! Welcome to Flash Frenzy Round 129. This weekend Ewan Smith returns to judge your stories.

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 129

photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

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.

546923_248184301975081_34486678_n

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 Tuesday, friends. I hope the day finds you well. Thank you to everyone who submitted stories this past weekend (after seeing AJ’s comments, I’m really glad I didn’t post the photo prompt I was originally contemplating!). Thanks also to AJ for volunteering his time to read and comment on the entries. You’ll find his comments and top picks below. 

Last time I judged there were just seven entries, this time thirteen and they were all tremendous (I can still use that word, right?). 

I did tweet prior to the prompt ‘bonus points for not making the stories about Trump’ as I was having a weekend trying not to think about him – not even my country and I feel I needed a break. And only one of you did, so thank you for that. And I didn’t mark the offending piece down; in fact it made me laugh, which I’m always a sucker for.

Each story included a train or two, which would have seemed coincidental but for the prompt photo and of course someone had to throw in a bit of Warren Zevon – let’s face it that is always a wise choice for any given day. Aah wooo! 

Needless to say all the stories were strong and I was quite torn, especially between the top two, but I have done it. These are the facts, not alternative ones, real ones. 

So, without further ado my favourite lines and my picks of the week…

Fave Lines:

1. Shokolokobangoshe

Hatch was on a 2 year contract, teaching Ceramic Engineering and Flirting at the Iffy Ilumasha University.

2. The White Room

Those first nights, whenever a train passed, I thought it was an earthquake.

3. Runaway Train.

She will be back once she finds all her missing pieces.

4. The Mission

He fell again, tumbling head-over-heels through bushes, against trees, and then crashed out onto open track to see the huge, shrieking train racing towards him.

5. Condemned

He felt the guard’s cold breath as he whispered in his ear. “Waiting, see. Waiting for the son.”

6.A Community Welcome

It’s not ideal but it’s not war-torn.

7. Tremendous

How dare they make him look like that? He’s the most important man in the world now.

8. A Winding Up Of Sorts

Their invention outlasts their hearts – wound tight, at first, then loosening, with time.

9. Chhotu: little one

That’s where the real people were, they would enjoy a cup of strong ginger tea.

10. Askance

I’d set our daughter free. But in that moment I wondered what else I had unleashed.

11. The Man in Blue

For the night comes for him.

12. It’s All in the Leap

Today, Sam marries his sweetheart: that was me, but he says it’s always been her.

13. Werewolves of London

What the hell had been let loose on the 9.15 am from Coventry?

HMs 

– The Mission by Ewan Smith

There wasn’t that much humour in this batch of stories. Which is fine. No, no, it really is. Anyway, this one had a nice punch line so thank you for giving me at least a little humour. Starting off like a scene from The Hunger Games to end with the less than exciting Trainspotting (i.e. nothing to do with the new film from Danny Boyle).

– Tremendous by Sal Page

Well hell I said no Trump please and what happened? This tremendously fun story about someone who seems a bit Trump like (can’t put my finger on why I think it could be). The train heading closer and going round the bend. Indeed. Safety information can be found under the seat in front of you and in between the carriages. Good luck.

(Okay, this was humourous too I think. Or was it alternative fact or Double Speak? I don’t know who to check with these days, we can’t trust anyone. So perhaps it wasn’t humour at all. In fact it probably wasn’t about Trump either now I come to think about it.) 

Runner Up – The Man in Blue by Mark A. King

I’ve been to Auschwitz and this story even on the first read took me straight back there. Thankfully merely as a visitor, but it’s not a place you can forget. It can be hard to write about such serious subjects especially with so few words to play with. So many people love trains, as can be seen in all the other stories; the journeys, the excitement; the possibilities about where you could be going to. Then there’s this place. Miles of train tracks, ash and detritus. 

The simple title gave no clue about the story and then the memory of trains and the people it brought to him for this evil man was one he enjoyed; while I could but shudder. It didn’t sound like the protagonist was that haunted by his past, but it was good to find out in the end he was – at night, at least. Evocative and brilliantly done. 

And our Round 123 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Firdaus Parves

with

Chhotu: Little One

Loved this vignette, could really see ‘the little one’ waiting at an Indian train station. Hoping that the train would come shortly (a lottery with many a timetable) so that the tea would still be saleable and desperate to get the tea to as many customers as possible, maximising the possibility of profits, however small, in the short time available. 

At the the end the fear that one customer had got away without paying for the tea was nicely played, and the uplifting end made me feel all nice and warm – like I’d just had a taste of some of that ginger tea. In short, I felt like I was on the platform watching the scene unfold. I felt hot and dusty and had to put the kettle on. Well done.

Congratulations, Firdaus! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie. Recruiting for February judges shall commence shortly. Anyone interested in judging (even if you haven’t been a Flash Master) is welcome to contact me, and we’ll arrange a date. Next weekend, A.V. Laidlaw will be presiding judge. Hope to see you all there.