Contest Win on Blog of Fantasy Writer, Jennifer Deese!

I have some exciting news to share!  I entered the photo-prompted fantasy flash fiction contest on author Jennifer Deese’s website, “To Write is Right!”, and I won!  My story, “Play Date,” is currently posted on her blog, along with Karen Mossman’s “I Am Alive,” which took second.  Karen’s story is very creepy and hints at a difficult backstory for the narrator!  I hope you’ll check out both stories and share your thoughts!  Here is the photo prompt used for the contest:

IMG_52669112475450 (Jennifer Deese, “To Write is Right!!!!”)

As a prize, I have the opportunity to read Jennifer Deese’s new novelette, The Orchid Keeper.  I’m away for a few days right now and borrowing a computer to write this, but I’ll get reading when I return and will let you know what I think.  Here is the description from Amazon.com: “Buried in addiction and digging in even deeper with denial Cora’s life is a mess. Until one day her reality takes a turn that lands her in an unfamiliar world. With the otherworldly assistance of Sol she will begin to realize how close she has brought her soul to fading away completely. Is it too late? Or can Cora face down her demons and save her soul?”  Very intriguing!

You can follow Jennifer Deese on Twitter: @d_eese

These are her blogs: jennjenn388.wordpress.com and jenniferdeese.wordpress.com

Happy reading and happy new year!  Thank you Jennifer Deese!  I’m grateful for the opportunity to have participated in your contest, for your blog post, and for your book!  A great way to transition into 2015.  : )  I’m also grateful for my good friend, author Lisa Pais’s kind words on her blog, The Enchanted Notebook.  Lisa is a very talented writer as well, producing fantasy, science fiction, humor, songs, and just about anything she sets her mind to!

If you are new to my blog and enjoy reading “Play Date,” I hope you’ll read some of my other flash fiction:

The Cocktail Party

The Toad

The Spider and the Fly-Man

Just in Case

The Arrangement

The Song in the Night

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Flash Fiction: The Cocktail Party

The Cocktail Party

The party had been going on for a few hours.  Most people had had a few drinks.  Most people had confined themselves to a corner or a chair or a place by the window.  A few drifted between the groups, failing to wedge themselves in permanently, failing to fully blossom into social butterflies.

Someone made a loud comment about the president.

Someone else said at least he cared about global warming.

At that, everyone looked toward the polar bear where he stood by the window, sipping at a martini and ducking his head.

Does the president really care about global warming?” a woman with dark hair and pointed glasses asked.

The man next to her in the tweed jacket that was too warm for the overheated apartment leaned into the woman, put his hand on her upper arm, and gestured toward the polar bear.

“Please don’t,” the bear said.  “I don’t want to be a ‘polar bear’ tonight.  I just want to be Mike.”

Everyone felt insensitive.  One man in a tight black t-shirt clapped the polar bear on the back and said, “Of course, Mike!” too loudly.

Everyone forgot about that awkward moment after Freddy showed up.  Freddy came uninvited to the party of his ex-girlfriend, bringing a date who looked as though she barely knew where she was.  Freddy kept an arm around her and propelled her through the party, bowling into the guests’ tight configurations squeezing her side as he slurred.

I went over to talk to Mike, and we averted our eyes from that fiasco.  Then we had a very serious, very deep conversation.  I told him about my dreams of becoming a writer, and how this would be very different than my current, soulless existence.  He told me that he missed the polar ice cap, but how he couldn’t take being around all of the moaning anymore.

“It was a bad scene,” he said.  “Everyone down there is so depressed.  Everyone is always talking about this melting and that melting.  You start to see that you’re really off-white compared to snow, once you look at it long enough.”

It was too much for him.

“Your coat looks lovely in the moonlight,” I said.

Mike blinked at me, and I could tell he thought I was being insincere.

I shrugged and smiled.  I walked away.  Freddy lunged at me with his new girlfriend, and they breathed hot booze onto my skin.  I shook my head to clear it and left the party, pulling on my coat as I clunked down the stairs and outside.  When I looked up at the lit windows of the party, I could see the shape of the polar bear against the window.  He started to move, but I turned away before I could see what gesture he would make.

* * *

If you enjoyed “The Cocktail Party,” please check out my other flash fiction stories, “The Toad,” “The Spider and the Fly-Man,” “Just in Case,” “The Arrangement,” and “The Song in the Night.”

Poem for Trying to Write Good Words

I’m in the hedge maze,

and I’ve always loved hedge mazes

and topiary animals.

I’m walking at a steady pace,

but when I turn a few corners,

I’m interrupted by a wall

of prickly green.

It seems to me that there are two choices:

turn around, or force myself through the hedge.

Mostly, I turn around.

That’s how you’re supposed to do it, right?

I turn right back around

and my movements would look funny, seen from above,

like a dog chasing its tail before lying down.

The way through the maze isn’t becoming clearer, though.

I’m getting dizzy from the turns.

Standing inside the next dead end,

facing the next green wall,

I push my arms and face and hands

into the living design,

and it scratches me

everywhere.

I keep pushing, with my eyes closed,

and the hedge is writing

on my skin, and

I think I may be bleeding.

The hedge is too thick, too dense,

and it will not be possible

to make it through to the other side,

thought it’s so short a distance.

I’m not going back, though.

I keep reaching into the green and

the points of the twigs reach into me,

and the pain is a relief

from the turning.

There is that.

Flash Fiction: The Toad

I didn’t have a chance to work on some of my extended projects this weekend, but I did work on a new flash fiction piece, drawing on the following list of words for inspiration:

rotting, trapped, slab, faith, paradise, mangle, toad, match, wolf, lamb, ginger snap, nursing, bones, newts, bathtub, abroad, protectors, lodging, elapsed, diminished, married, confidence, indulgence, welcome, ragged, mysteries, lively, intelligent

Words selected from Life Studies and For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell (1964) and Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell, Penguin Edition (2004)

*

The Toad

            The feeling had diminished, whatever it was.  Earlier, she had felt it crouched inside her: a lumpy toad, spreading a rancid chill amongst her organs.  It was, she supposed, a type of depression.  There were strains, too, of anger.  There were hints of loneliness and undertones of dissatisfaction.

Harriet had given lodging to the toad.  What choice had she had?  Yet, she’d left the door to the creature’s abode open, to try to tempt it to leave.

Time had elapsed, and the toad had left her abdomen and had hopped onto the kitchen counter, where it watched her preparing dinner.  It sneered at the french fries as she poured them, frozen, but still greasy, onto the pan.  Under its intelligent eyes, she felt guilty for the indulgence.

After the terrible meal, her stomach had become a slab, and the toad hopped to it and settled there once more, and he made her feel cold and little afraid, so she ran a bath for herself: hot with fragrant bubbles.  These were enough to make the toad unsure of his welcome, and he once again departed from her, though he didn’t go far.  He sat on the vanity and peered down at her obscured, but naked form in the bathtub.  Harriet felt sure that none of her mysteries were secret to him, and saw that his eyes were more lively than she had hitherto realized.

Regarding the toad from tub and meeting his liquid eyes, she felt herself warming to him.  Might he not be a protector?  A supernatural gift?  A benign influence bent on nursing her back to health?  It might only have been her own bleak feelings which had initially framed him as a bad omen.

Reading her thoughts, the toad launched himself down to her from the vanity, and perched his squishy body upon the edge of the tub.  Next, he would slip down into the water.  Harriet felt a quiver of apprehension at that, a wavering of her confidence.  Why had the great beyond sent her a toad, after all?  Why not a wolf, or a lamb?  Why was her familiar a creature so universally known for ugliness—a creature whose only defense mechanisms are camouflage and peeing into the mouths of predators?

The toad read these thoughts in Harriet’s eyes and turned, launching himself onto the bathroom rug and exiting the room.  When Harriet stood, toweled herself dry, and peered into the hallway, she was alone.  The toad had gone, punishing her for her lack of faith.  Who knew what he might have been, if she had been patient?

Harriet felt a new heaviness settle inside her, as yet unfamiliar.  She vowed that she would not be so careless with this entity.  She would guard her thoughts.  She would strive to be grateful.  She would hold back any desire to cringe at an unexpected form.  She would kneel at the knee of this new shape, and she would study its lessons and recite its mantras.

As she made these fervent promises, the new creature lifted its head from its coils, and Harriet reached out a hand, free of trembling, to stroke its scales.

*

If you liked “The Toad,” please take a look at my other works of flash fiction, “The Spider and the Fly-Man,” “Just in Case,” “The Arrangement,” and “The Song in the Night.”