The Hum of Falling

My entry in last week’s Flash! Friday contest. Same drill as always: story had to be inspired by the photo below with a 160 word count max.

wine-glassphoto by blakjakdavy

The hydraulic press chewed the aluminum sheet then molded it into a sellable part. He watched as the goliath purged the items into a plastic bin at fifty-four revolutions per minute. He smothered a yawn. Ten hours of his ambition and sanity gutted daily, like a decorative pumpkin.

At break time, a lanky menace droned on about the Mexicans and any other non-white that wouldn’t kneel before the Confederate flag emblazoned on his mud-skimmed truck window.

He annihilated a bologna sandwich as his cadre of lackeys squawked at every corrupt morsel that spilled out of his outdated mouth. Daniel observed in silence, nibbling on grapes, while waiting on the time clock to sing its song of escape.

At home, he opened a bottle of red and spoke to the silhouettes crawling on the walls. They discussed art and gastronomy. Symphonies and poetry.

Daniel eventually bade them farewell and set his alarm.

He dreamt of being swallowed by uncouth machines.

Heavy With Child

My entry in the Flash Friday! Flashversary contest second round. The photo below was your prompt and the word count needed to be between 150-500. This round was only for the 25 semifinalists, who had a chance to move on to the final 10. Alas, I did not make the finals. But I truly had an amazing experience with this contest and the feedback I received is something I’ll cherish. A couple of my Twitter pals are still in the hunt, and I’m certainly rooting for them. Hope you enjoy!

round-2-prompt-didgeridoo photo by Francois de Halleux

The cigarette smoke was like a cancerous pacifier. A vapor of irresponsible toxins that eased me into a tranquil sleep, a kind of nicotine-infused lullaby. I took naps often.

The alcohol was a different scourge. The first drop brought disorientation. The ensuing ones induced an embryonic rage. I lashed out with my feet, an attempt to kick a hole in the walls of my distilled prison sac. But the drinks kept coming, accompanied by the background noise of a wailing melancholic guitar. Or a menacing baritone. Both of us were wobbly on many occasions. And we both needed to follow the 12 steps.

When I first tasted the juice of a fruit, my tongue lolled around in ecstasy. It was exotic, uncontaminated, and holy, and I craved more. But I was usually served the sludge of her normal diet. A river of marbled goop that adhered itself to her lining and hung there like an abstract painting.

I had an opportunity to free myself when she was properly dilated. I saw a radiant light and a man in a white coat. He tugged on my head. I resisted. He yanked harder, his face as red as an apple. I dug my fingers in and refused to exit. I was half-drunk, anyway. I was ready for a siesta.

Next, they carved her open. This new tactic involved a brazen frontal assault. I demurred and burrowed deep into the womb like a startled prairie dog. We danced for a spell, me and the extractor, until mom told him to just leave me in there.

Mom was bed-ridden most of the time but our relationship truly blossomed. She taught me a blue-collar version of Morse code and we communicated with a series of complex taps. She even tapped that she loved me once. Or maybe that she loathed me, but I prefer to believe the former.

She brought me meals via a feeding tube. Birthday’s were my favorite. She would send me a liquified vanilla cake with strawberry icing. I absorbed it like a peckish wedge of chamois. And I always requested my beloved oranges.

The bespectacled specialist said I was an abomination and a blight on motherhood. He didn’t understand. I was happy inside mom. I knew the life that had tormented her: the low wages, conniving men, the booze and the heartaches. I sought to avoid all of that.

She made grievous mistakes in the past but I don’t condemn her. They were birthed from that pitiless assassin called poverty. She was my mom. I’ll never be as close to her as I was for those thirteen years. I was her baby boy.

When she passed away due to the strain of my weight, I finally had to choose that illuminated portal. I flourished, became a man and eventually discovered love. My wife, Chantal, is currently pregnant with my three-year old son, but he’s not ready to meet daddy just yet. My boy is a womb dweller.

Born to Burn

My entry in the Flash Friday! Flashversary contest. This is an annual competetion that drew well-over a hundred entries. It was huge! The story needed to be inspired by the photo below and the word count was to be exactly 150. This was the first round of a three round contest.

I’m quite pleased that my story made the Top 25 and moved on to the semifinals. (More on the next round in my next post) I had a lot of fun writing this tale. Hope you enjoy it.

140957047_856673549b_o photo by Petteri Sulonen

My name is Benjamin. This is a goodbye of sorts. You may have seen my work on the news over the years. You won’t grieve for me.

Fire was my morning coffee, my lady in lingerie. It sparked the blood. I thought about infernos in the shower. I forged an alliance with gasoline, an incendiary relationship. And when I ached, I struck a match.

I derived no pleasure from carnage. I felt vacant when a church became embers of charred salvation. When the molotov cocktails splashed on the grinning do-gooders, their terror didn’t captivate me, it was the machinations of the blaze; the manner in which it pursued its quarry. There was beauty in the way fire slithered, a deceptive gyration, like a supple ballerina contorting her body.

My mind is incurable and hell awaits. Tonight, I seek a combustible untethering. The flame will taste the skin of its lover.

The Blinking Sand

My entry in this week’s Flash! Friday contest. The photo below was your inspiration and coming of age had to incorporated into your story in some fashion. 160 max word count.

I’m pleased to say that my story received an Honorable Mention this week from the judges, the editors of Splickety magazine. You can read their comment about my tale at the end of this post.

your-hand-in-mine-goodbye photo by Tony

When she was a fractured teen, Jennifer would sneak out to the oceanfront with her plastic red bucket. The seashells that littered the sand became startled eyes in her ailing mind. Unseen bodies protected by a granular blanket with orbs of various hues darting around for the visitor sheathed in a lustful cloak. Like Jennifer, they had seen the trembling brass doorknob when the tormenting night arrived. They had seen brutes in flannel shirts and chameleons in silk pajamas.

She would gather a few of the eye-shells and take them home to comfort her while her mother chose to ignore the stifled moans of lost innocence.

“Who’s gonna pay the rent now, you ungrateful tattletale?” she asked Jennifer years ago. Nancy would eventually marry a ruffian with a bursting wallet and unquenched rage in his knuckles.

Jennifer always comes back to the beach. She tells the panicked eyes about her new life, the one aglow with the color of redemption.

Judges comment: “The Blinking Sand.” We love the use of descriptive language in “The Blinking Sand: (“seashells that littered the sand became startled eyes in her ailing mind,” “Unseen bodies protected by a granular blanket with orbs of various hues darting around for the visitor sheathed in a lustful cloak”). The sad, poetic words give the reader a sense of Jennifer’s “fractured” mind. We’re not told about the suffering Jennifer experienced. Instead, we’re shown the traumatic events, as if through a veil—just enough to understand what’s happening and why Jennifer seeks refuge among the “panicked eyes.” The story also ends on a hopeful note, as we learn of Jennifer’s new life, “aglow with the color of redemption.”

Sixty Seconds with: Chris Milam

Originally posted on Flash! Friday:

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

MatchlightOur newest Flash! Friday winner is Chris Milam. Be sure to check out his bio at his winner’s page! Read his winning storyhere, then take one minute to get to know him better.

1) What about the prompt inspired your winning piece?  I mainly focused on the phonograph. I kept thinking about why people dive into music when they are struggling.

2) How long have you been writing flash? About one year. My only goal is to be a better writer today than I was yesterday.

3) What do you like about writing flash? I’m not a loquacious person, so the brevity required in flash suits my personality. Hit…

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The Abyss

My entry in this week’s Flash! Friday contest. Your story had to be inspired by the photo below and had to include a puppy in some fashion. The word count max was 160.

I’m overjoyed to announce that I was named the winner this week. This is basically the Holy Grail of the weekly flash fiction contests. Every week there are tons of entries written by some truly marvelous writers. I can’t even articulate how genuinely happy I feel today. I’ve been struggling mightily with self-doubt lately and this felt like a bit of validation. I’m simply thrilled. I must thank the judges this week who had an enormously difficult task in front of them. So thank you very much Catherine Connolly and AJ Walker, both of whom are members of the Poised Pen writers group. Their comment about my story can be found at the end of this post.

caruso_with_phonograph2 Photo owned by LOC

The jukebox desires coins bathed in anguish. My pocket is bulging with those. I feed the nostalgic gal then crawl to the bar.

Intoxicated bones with masks of sorrow lounge on decaying stools, a whimpering pack of discarded puppies pining for their master. Glasses are being fractured by aching hands. Marinated eyes plunge for deserted images floating in amber liquid. We drink memories at The Abyss. We splash our guts with the distilled echo of things that don’t come back.

Words are extinct here. Our mouths are preoccupied with swallowing fraudulent remedies. Our ears tuned solely to the paralyzing songs that tell our story with a folksy twang.

A kid in a pink Oxford is peeling the label off his beer with wounded talons. His first heartbreak, perhaps. I buy his next round. He nods. I want to tell him to stay afloat, but my coins have bartered a deal: A melody that tilts the bottle. Lyrics that consume shadows.

DRAGON WINNER CHRIS MILAM!!!for“The Abyss”

This story sets its premise out from the title in.  Right from the outset, the reader descends into the abyss the characters dwell within whilst they drink memories away.  Original premise aside, the writer’s use of language is accomplished.  Pockets “bulging” with coins bathed in anguish cause the protagonist to “crawl” to the bar, emphasising the sense of psychological weight from the first paragraph.  The sense of despair and hopelessness continues via the “bones” displaying their “masks” only, devoid of real humanity, as we see what the bar occupants have been reduced to.  Seemingly, the distilled memories they imbibe will not be the only things incapable of a return.  Here, “echo” refers cleverly not only to the distilled products being served but the inference in respect of the drinkers themselves.  There is a sense of struggle in the attempt to “stay afloat”, however hopeless it may ultimately prove.  Finally, we reach the haunting conclusion and its “shadows”, with the reference to consumption highlighting the extent to which those who drink at the Abyss are eaten away, slowly but surely, by their singular desire.  Beautifully done, Chris!