Crowd of Teeth

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Andrew Lipstein, editor of the literary journal Thick Jam, was kind enough to publish my story, “Crowd of Teeth,” today. It’s always an honor to have the opportunity to appear in a journal that is respected by the writing community. Plus their stories never fail make an impact on the reader.

You can read my story here: http://thickjam.com/no-409

If you’re interested in learning more about Thick Jam and what Andrew wants in a story, in case you want to submit there, here’s an interview he did with Jim Harrington: http://sixquestionsfor.blogspot.com/2012/10/six-questions-for-andrew-lipstein.html?m=1

Empty Podium

My entry in this week’s Flash! Friday competition. The photo below and clumsiness had to be interpreted within your story. 160 word max as usual.

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The conspicuous glow from two iPhones revealed their position on the wooden bleachers in this dimly lit gymnasium in Nowhere, Wisconsin. They still believed.

Being seventeen and marginally talented, I would occasionally place in the top ten in random competitions across the Midwest. We’ve been on the circuit for a decade and my parents still believed I could make it to the Pan American games or maybe the Olympics. They had dreams of gold medals being forged from their perseverance and dedication. All I wanted was to quit traveling and make new friends, maybe fall in love, enroll in college. Be something besides a teenager wearing a snug leotard that drew lustful stares from the married men stationed throughout the hormonal gym.

I balanced myself on the beam and waved to my parents. Mouthed a silent apology. I’m not a clumsy girl but today I will fall awkwardly on the dismount, hoping I fracture my ankle. My betrayal obscured. Undetected.

Sanguine Desire

This was my entry in the Grey Matter Press flash-fiction horror contest. I’m not very experienced with writing horror stories but I was shocked at how talented the other writers were. I certainly learned a great deal just by reading the other entries.

The guidelines required that your story be exactly 200 words and had to include the following words within the body of the piece: Devour, Yesterday, Moist, Overturned, and Cushion.

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My blood tastes like caramel. I assumed it would be acidic and coppery, but when I nicked myself shaving recently, I swallowed a rivet of liquid addiction. I began pouring my blood into the morning coffee, a homemade macciato that rivaled Starbucks. My kids picked up the scent of this ambrosial seductress and began asking questions which led to them cornering me in the bathroom with Bic razors in their fidgety hands. My julienned face revealed the sugary nectar that their blades sought and they shared a bowl of vanilla gelato topped with a smear of daddy’s B positive. They attacked often.

Yesterday, my wife was struggling with her allergies when Abby and Alex caught a whiff of grape taffy. They stormed our bedroom and overturned furniture and their innocence while rooting out their mother and her intoxicating aroma. They yanked her out of the closet and dragged her to the bed. Their agitated teeth found a soft cushion in her bloodshot eyes. Standing behind Abby, my nostrils detected something tropical and ripe: Fresh kiwi. I tugged her shoulder and spun her around. A moist stain of luscious red was blossoming on her white shorts. My tongue was set to devour.

Unresolved

This story of mine was first published as part of National Flash Fiction Day. Along with the other FlashFlood stories, you could take part in their Write-In. You were tasked with submitting a story during a 24 hour window, based on a prompt and, if accepted, they would publish it on their blog. It was difficult for me because I typically let a story marinate for a few days before submitting it, but in the end, I wrote something fresh and I was lucky enough that my story was selected for publication. I chose the photo prompt below as my inspiration.

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We had to know. Could it be a family of vagrants? A steel graveyard for lost pets? A meth lab? Tommy picked me up right on schedule and we headed over to Lafayette and the woods on the northside that hid something mysterious and potentially hazardous. Tonight was going to be a watershed moment for us. A reckoning. The uncovering of secret things.

“Did you pack everything?” Tommy asked.

“We’re all set, man. Flashlights, bottles of water, a pellet gun, granola bars and, just in case, a butcher knife.”

“Cool. You never know, we might have to slice a hobo or something.”

Tommy parked the Corolla at the treeline. I grabbed the gear and we starting walking through a forest of menacing trees and black silence.

“Ben, you know how to use that thing?”

“A knife? I just move my arm forward and thrust. How fucking hard is that? Jesus, man.”

“Just saying. What if there’s a hyena in there or a starving leopard with cubs? “That thrust of yours might be a tad shaky under the circumstances.”

“Yes, African predators in the hills of Kentucky makes a whole lot of sense. Dude, you need to chill on the weed or watch an episode of Animal Planet.”

After two miles we reached the abandoned caboose. How it got here nobody knows but there it sat; rusting and spooky and inviting. My stomach was sending out warning signals as we exchanged nervous smiles.

Tommy approached with the pellet gun extending from a vibrating arm and I raised the butcher knife above my head, ready to plunge.

“I’m not gonna lie, man, I’m scared shitless. You sure we should be doing this?” Tommy asked.

“No, but we’re here and we need to know. Let’s do this.”

I took a deep breath, reached for the handle and began to turn…

“Ben, I knocked on your door for five minutes. It’s time for dinner.”

“Sorry, dad. I was working on a story in my head and drifted away. Can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“That old caboose rotting away in Lafayette, what do you think could be inside?”

He chuckled and said “Stuck on the ending I presume? It’s your story, son and your imagination. You’ll figure it out.”

I hurried through a meal of burgers and fries and dove back into bed and closed my eyes. And for a second time, my hand began to turn that handle.

DWS

My story first published as part of National Flash Fiction Day on Saturday June 21st. Calum Kerr and his team of editors created a concept called FlashFlood, a literal flood of stories to celebrate NFFD. As the site says: Welcome to FlashFlood an international flash-fiction journal created by you and edited by a team of volunteer editors on behalf of National Flash-Fiction Day.

The aim is simple, wherever you are in the world, we want your best flash-fictions. The word limit is 500 words, but that’s the only rule. Any subject, any genre, any style, any perspective, anything as long as it’s flash.

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Radiohead was spilling blood from the speakers as I sped down the gravel road, dust clouds trailing behind me in the form of a chalky apparition. I was getting lost again in a memory of her when I saw the cop car flashing his lights in the rearview mirror.

The city of Lancaster was a progressive town and they realized an intervention was required. After witnessing case after case of sad people doing sad people things they took action. They recognized that depressed people were unproductive, ambitionless, unfriendly and standoffish, not the traits of a contented people. They didn’t want the town infected with diseased minds. They believed that happy people contributed to the community, spent money at the local shops, attended church, worked harder, were more sociable and committed fewer crimes. A smile was worshipped, a frown was medicated.

Their solution was forced upon its less blissful populace. If you suffered from depression, you were required to take medication and you were assigned a therapist that met with you on a weekly basis. They wanted a peaceful hamlet brimming with happiness, whether it was artificial or not wasn’t a concern. A fraudulent smile was still a smile.

Your neighbors morphed into human bloodhounds with a nose for despair and apathy. They prowled the shadowy recesses of your life searching out a whiff of melancholia to report to the authorities. If you were caught being sad, you received a warning and a trip to the pharmacy. A second offense led to a more involved remedy. Treading lightly was advised if you were feeling blue.

The crunch of the cop’s boots on the gravel told me he had finished running my driver’s license through the system.

“Mr. Jacob’s, I noticed that you’re listening to some Radiohead. That’s interesting. Also interesting is that ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts and the picture of the woman sitting on the passenger seat. Care to explain?”

“Just going for a drive, officer, listening to some tunes. Is that a problem?”

“According to our records, you were cited six months ago for watching a film called The Notebook three consecutive times on a Friday night while drinking a twelve pack of Budweiser. Then you texted a woman named Amber Jenkins, telling her you missed her and you couldn’t move on. Do you recall this event, sir?”

“Yes. I made a mistake. I’m doing better now.”

“It doesn’t appear that way to me. You’re being charged with DWS, Mr. Jacob’s.”

“DWS?”

“Driving While Sad. This is your second offense. I don’t want to be a complete hard-ass here, so smoke one last cigarette and listen to another song before I haul you away. I’ll give you five minutes.”

“Thank you, officer.”

I let the lyrics and thoughts of her wash over me. I welcomed the pain, every drop of anguish contained a snapshot of a happier time. I leaned my head back and smiled. A real smile.

And The Winner Is…

I decided to take a break from the Flash! Friday competition this week. Maybe I’m a little burned out but I still wrote a story before the deadline expired but I chose not to enter. Your story had to be inspired from the photo prompt below and arrogance had to be incorporated in some fashion. 160 word max as usual.

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My husband once won an award for selling more knives door-to-door than anyone else. As a lark, his coworkers fashioned a crown from a torn magazine page and proceeded to anoint him the King of Blades. Edward was never the same.

At night, he would tell me that the salesman of the year required some loving from his queen. His paper crown would gash me in the face while his staph worked diligently at being underwhelming. I would fake it until he shuddered, then switch on Orphan Black.

He started using a pomade in his hair and an exotic serum on his skin. At breakfast, he requested poached eggs and chicory coffee instead of his usual jelly donut and Sanka. He became snide and judgemental and his ego ballooned. Edward had made a faustian deal.

At our divorce proceedings he flashed some white at the Judge and asked if His Honor would be interested in a Japanese-crafted titanium boning knife.