Gale Martin: Reflections

A guest post at Booktrope Author Marni Mann’s blog, The Memoir of a Writer:

Gale Martin: Reflections.

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Friday Flash Contest December 1 Keyword: original

Friday Flash is open to any writer. You need not have participated in any previous round to compete this week.

With the key word given, write a piece of fiction 350 words or less that contains the word in the body of the piece. It can also be in the title, but it must be contained in the story itself.

For this contest, your story has to be fiction. It’s not a narrative essay, like a typical blog entry. It needs to have a beginning, middle, and an end.

It can be any genre–mainstream, humor, horror, adventure, literary, slipstream, mystery, romance. It can be sexy, just not wildly erotic, okay?

You have until 12 noon (GMC-5) Saturday, December 2, to write a piece of fiction 350 words or less and send it back to me at gem4sixers@gmail.com.

Please put FF entry in the subject line. I have been able to open most attachments; however, you may put your entry in the body of the email.

I’ll post all the entries anonymously on this site by Sunday.

Once the new round of entries are posted, any visitor to this site gets to vote and or comment on the entries by sending me the number of your favorite entry.

On Wednesdays, I’ ll announce the winner.

What’s in it for you? How about some bragging rights? And the chance to develop a few good pieces to submit for publication.

Your word of the week is:

original

I look forward to your submissions. And good luck.

Voting guidelines: Everyone who submits an entry must vote for an entry–but not your own. To eliminate the salting of an entry at the expense of others, i.e., calling up ten people and telling them to vote for your entry whether it’s the strongest or not, only people who submit are allowed to vote.

Next Contest is Friday, December 1

A new keyword will be posted here Friday morning by 8 a.m. You’ll have until Saturday noon to write and submit 350 words of flash for this week’s contest.

Hope you’ll be flashing Friday.

Friday Flash Entries October 27th Keyword: snapped

 

Here are the three entries for the October 27th “Friday Flash” fiction competition using the keyword snapped.

The entries are posted in the order they were received. Each is no longer than 350 words.

To vote for an entry, send an email to gem4sixers@gmail.com. Put the number of the entry in the subject line of your email.

All voting ends Wednesday, November 1 at 8 a.m. (GMC-5). Winners will be announced around lunchtime.

Please vote for one story only. If you are one of the contestants this week, you are expected to cast a vote, too! Just don’t vote for your own piece.

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#1.

Philosopher Murders Seven

Case number 47-221024 was a difficult one, that was clear. The man’s name was Robert Espy. He worked for humanitarian advancement, a Philosophic Master, recipient of numerous accolades, advisor to three presidents. These are the cases which would test any adjudicator’s abilities.

I was already familiar with the situation; it had been all over the news for the past two days. “Philosopher Murders Seven,” screamed the headline in the Times. This never made sense to me. The men responsible for upholding the values of our society—so often they were the ones who snapped. The job can’t be that hard.

Not like mine. I’m the Socio-economic Adjudicator for the northeast region. The murders happened under my jurisdiction, so my team got the file. No one wanted to touch it; Espy was too well known. It landed on my desk.

Among the damage: four CEOs and two vice presidents of major corporations, and one senator. All seven were valuable. I began to assess the monetary worth of their social contributions. Business records, reviews of performance, awards: these things factored into the equation. The figure was significant. Those lives represented forty billion dollars in economic activity last year—activity that would be absent from the market, next fiscal year.

Espy, however, was quite the producer himself. Over his lifetime, his contributions in business ethics and game theory gave him a productive worth equal to nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars. This sort of money can not be comprehended. But he had been retired when he committed the murders.

Reports were that he ranted about the social situation today. In our insistence on strict bureaucracy and material accumulation, we have killed our souls. Humanity is lost. That was the conclusion he had reached since retirement. I don’t know; it’s not so bad. I ran the numbers.

He was an intelligent man and a national treasure, no doubt about it. But there was no way he could make up a forty billion dollar debt in the remainder of his projected natural life. He had outlived his usefulness. I ordered death by lethal injection.

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#2.

In the Gutter

“Yo, Tim. What’s going on man?”

“Nothing much. You guys seen Johnny?”

“Naw man, you didn’t hear?”

“Hear what?”

“Aw man, let me tell you! You know about Johnny and Sarah breaking up a week ago, right?”

“Yeah, so. Things happen.”

“True, but not like this.”

“Like what…what happened?”

“Johnny and Sarah had a big fight over him thinking she was cheating and stuff, and Sarah basically told him that if he didn’t stop accusing her, she was going to cheat for real. So, Johnny decided to ease up and leave her alone about it, cause he really didn’t have any proof. He was just going off what Rob had told him…about seeing her with some other guy.”

“Well, yo, you can’t really blame Johnny for tripping. When you hear about somebody else with your girl, it kinda brings out the worst in you.”

“That’s the truest thing I ever hear, cause he did just that…trip!”

“What’d he do?”

“You know….the typical story. He was at work, got off early and decided to hurry home to surprise his lady…plus he wanted to sneak in, to see if she was up to no good. Man, when he got home, the house was madd quiet (a little too quiet for him). Her car was there, but no one was in the living room, or in the back yard. That’s when his imagination got the best of him. He started running around the house, checking every room to see what, if anything, was going on. He got to the last room that he had to check (even though he didn’t want to),which was his bedroom. He really didn’t want to look in there, because he was scarred to find her doing something she shouldn’t be…and that’s when he found her…”

“What! What!”

“Changing the baby.”

“WHAT! That’s it? Man, I thought you were going to say she was…..

“What? You thought I was going to say he saw her with another man, and snapped? Man, get your mind out of the gutter.”

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#3.

Because They Bugged Me

Why did I do it?

Why does anybody do anything? They pushed and pushed and pushed. They wouldn’t stop pushing me, and I snapped. Something went s-n-a-p! As quickly as you can snap your fingers.

It started off innocently enough. Their motives were innocuous.

So, it’s not that I’m sympathetic. Very sympathetic. Very.

Let me guess. You think Hell is a hot place. Right? A place that’s bright and white hot and lit up in every shade of red. Because that’s what the Devil with a capital “d” wants. Dressed in his fire-engine-red latex body suit, he pushes you towards an eternal flaming abyss with his red-hot pitchfork because of all the bad things you did: You didn’t call your mother on her birthday; you claimed $400 in charitable contributions when it was only $300; you watched several series on PBS last year without pledging a goddamn nickel; you fantasized about making it with your friend’s husband.

No, my idea of Hell is not like everyone else’s. It’s somewhere really cold, where you can’t get warm, no matter how many layers you wear. To me, Hell is eternity in a place that’s dark and cold and blue as frozen flesh. To me, a cold Hell is a real deterrent to sin whereas a hot Hell is a value added feature broadcasting, “Hell is hot! Hell is hot!” To which I can only think, Sin some more.

So of course I snapped. Too many of them wanted in. Only a few at first. Then five, then ten, then they’re parading up the steps. Sure, they’re harmless. They didn’t deserve it.

But I had to do it.

Hey, I was generous. I let all those damn boxelder bugs enjoy the last seconds of their earthly bug lives. In quick, shuddering strokes, I swept them all together–those harmless little black bugs storming my foyer, mind you, my new foyer–with my new corn broom, tamped them down, and pushed them out on the front stoop. Because it’s freezing out there.

Go to Hell, bugs.

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October 27th Friday Flash Keyword: snapped

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Friday Flash is open to any writer. You need not have participated in any previous round to compete this week.

With the key word given, write a piece of fiction 350 words or less that contains the word in the body of the piece. It can also be in the title, but it must be contained in the story itself.

For this contest, your story has to be fiction. It’s not a narrative essay, like a typical blog entry. It needs to have a beginning, middle, and an end.

It can be any genre–mainstream, humor, horror, adventure, literary, slipstream, mystery, romance. It can be sexy, just not wildly erotic, okay?

You have until 12 noon (GMC-5) Saturday, October 28, to write a piece of fiction 350 words or less and send it back to me at gem4sixers@gmail.com.

Please put FF entry in the subject line. I have been able to open most attachments; however, you may put your entry in the body of the email.

I’ll post all the entries anonymously on this site by Sunday.

Once the new round of entries are posted, any visitor to this site gets to vote and or comment on the entries by sending me the number of your favorite entry.

On Wednesdays, I’ ll announce the winner.

What’s in it for you? How about some bragging rights? And the chance to develop a few good pieces to submit for publication.

Your word of the week is:

snapped

I look forward to your submissions. And good luck.

Friday Flash Entries October 20 Keyword: initial

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Here are the five entries for the October 20th “Friday Flash” fiction competition using the keyword initial. The entries are posted in the order they were received. Each is no longer than 350 words.

To vote for an entry, send an email to gem4sixers@gmail.com. Include the number of the entry in the subject line.

All voting ends Wednesday, October 25 at 8 a.m. (GMC-5). Winners will be announced around lunchtime.

Please vote for one story only, and if you are one of the contestants this week, I only ask you don’t vote for your own piece.

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#1 — The October 20th Friday Flash Winner

The Last American in Baghdad

by Jerry Kalman

Edwards looked like a TV anchor. Coiffed salt and pepper hair, bright shiny teeth. While the fourteen-year-old prostitute practiced her craft, neither spoke. His sculpted chin pointed out the window. When she finished he flicked make-up off his pants and thrust a wad of money at her.

Overhead, the thunk-thunk-thunk of Coalition helicopters.

“Gotta go Marta. My ride awaits me,” Edwards said.

“I do you again?”

“No, Marta.” He glanced through the glassless window to the street below. The flash of light from a roadside bomb just disintegrated his Humvee. The shockwave threw both back onto the sooty grease-stained mattress she used.

“You want more now? Eh?”

“No, Marta,” Edwards said and pushed her away. He chipped a nail. That bothered him.

She pouted. A tear ran down her cheek.

He muttered: “Father’s initial assignment, the Fall of Saigon. Forty years later I’m doing likewise in Baghdad.” He pulled a camcorder out of his pack, recorded the bloodied debris of his HumVee, and then aimed the lens at him.

He made sure Marta remained huddled in the corner out of view and intoned: “Ross W. Edwards in Baghdad. Outside, chaos as Coalition troops withdraw. Our vehicle was just destroyed by an IED. Soon I join the caravan of Iraqi officials seeking asylum in Kuwait.”

Dramatic pause. Calm. He leaned into the camera: “We don’t know if the sheikhs will grant them asylum, though, so soon after the First Gulf War.”

He looked over his shoulder to the scene below. “Insurgents race through the streets firing automatic rifles in the air.”

Helicopters overhead again. He stopped and feigned an anxious glance upward. “A once proud jewel of the Middle East returns to the Middle Ages,” and with a smug look, “I like that, don’t edit it out.”

In the rubble-strewn hallway, he heard excited Arabic voices. Edwards held out his press badge off camera while he spoke: “Ross W. Edwards, live from Baghdad.”

A scimitar flashed. The camera fell to the floor to reveal Marta’s bloody body at sandaled feet. Off-camera, an accented voice added: “Ross Edwards, dead in Baghdad.”

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#2

In the Doghouse

I can’t believe I did it again.

It’s always exactly the same. Someone knocks on my door, I invite them in for coffee, we get to talking, we start to flirt, I make a mental note of the length of her skirt, I skooch my armchair across the tile floor, she leans over a bit, but not enough to give anything away, I put on my “I’m interested in what your saying” face, she gives a coy sideways glance, I loosen my tie, she crosses her legs and flings her hair over her shoulder, I move my seat even closer and stealthily switch to my “I can bench press 300 pounds” face, she puts her hand on my knee… I mean, c’mon! You can cut the sexual tension with a knife! And that smile, my God! That smile! That “you’re the one I’ve been waiting for” smile, that “if you don’t make a move right now you’ll be sorry” smile. She’s begging me!

This is the exact moment when I bust out the “whatever you want, just ask me because I would so go there” face, and she is hooked! So just as I stand up and move towards her to take her, panting, into my strong and protective arms, BAM! Out comes the contract. It’s a signature here, an initial there, 16 quick numbers and an expiration date and she’s out of my life forever.

Every damn time. First it was the Cutco knife set, then a gross of Tupperware containers, the deluxe Comcast cable package, the Miracle stain remover, that tart of a girl scout with her damn cookies! And what the hell am I supposed to do with 23 subscriptions to Reader’s Digest?

And now this! How am I supposed to explain a luxury yacht parked in our front yard?

I can already picture her face. My wife has made an art of the “don’t even try to get out of this one” face, followed by the “guess who’s sleeping on the couch tonight” face.

I’ll have to brush up on my “it’ll never happen again” face.

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#3

Ongoing

My earliest memories of my grandfather, the noted biologist B. Charles Daniel, were of him telling war stories. All his stories revolved around the battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. It was his hobby, I suppose, as the Civil War was decades before his time. But he told his stories with incredible detail, and they were always in first person. It never failed to put us in the action. By the time I was ten, I knew as much about the struggle for Little Round Top as any reenactor, yet my grandfather never participated as one, as far as I knew.

Occasionally, someone would ask him what his first initial “B” stood for. He would reply with a gentle smile, “What do you think it stands for?” and after a few moments, change the subject. Asking my mother—his daughter—was also no help as she simply said she didn’t know. I began to suspect it was rather like the “S” in Harry S. Truman; it didn’t stand for anything.

Shortly before he died, my grandfather received the Nobel Prize for his work in linking bioluminescent markers to other genes in order to passively study biological processes. I don’t understand most of that sentence, but evidently it was important work.

But time moves on and the impressive accomplishments of the long deceased are forgotten under the weight of more important things. My logistics supply company has gone through many personnel changes recently. As president, I was struggling to fill the gaps.

One young man, C. Dan Ellsworth, looked bright enough on paper. But there was one thing on his resume that stuck out, to me in particular. He claimed to have won the Nobel Prize—in some sort of biochemistry, no less. Why someone would pad their resume with such an easily disproved point, I have no idea. My HR manager told me that when she asked him about it, he replied, “That was an earlier time.” I’m much too busy a man for this sort of nonsense. Needless to say, he wasn’t hired.

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#4

Skirting the Issue

I glanced at the resin clock on the vanity: 6:55. He was due in five minutes. Lightly, ever so lightly, I tapped my thumbnail with my ring finger to see if my fingernails had hardened. Not dry yet, and I had to zip up my skirt.

In quick puffs, I blew on my fingers then waved my hands in the air with more fury than a hummingbird beats its wing. With forefingers only, I pulled the back of the skirt to the front, gently pulling the zipper closed.

Thankfully I had inserted the belly ring before I realized my polish needed a touch-up.

I hadn’t seen Kent since our ten-year class reunion. When he called a month ago to say he would be coming to Long Island for the weekend without his wife, I said, “Of course, you should come.”

It had been five years. We had much to talk about.

I hoped not to spend all our time together in conversation. Tonight I banked on my Chanel No. 5 and lace-edged camisole to generate a little…pillow talk.

I took one last look in the full-length mirror. Before I could determine whether the nails had dried, the doorbell sounded. I breathed in and out deeply to still my heart, glided to the door, and threw it open.

“Hello, Kent,” I purred.

He stood speechless, motionless, for a long minute, eyeing the silver hoop with the rhinestone charm dangling from my navel.

I swirled around, showing him a hint of thigh high stockings and a black garter belt.

Still he was silent.

“What do you think?”

“My initial impression–,” Kent cleared his throat. “Sorry. My initial impression is…you looked better as a man, Mark.”

“Markie,” I corrected him.

“What?”

“It’s Markie now. Like Markie Post from Night Court?”

“The busty babe, right? You got bazooms like her now, too?”

“Not exactly.” I took the six-pack from his hands. “So what do you want to watch, Kent? World Series or the Rangers?” I asked, kicking off the Ferragamo heels, popping the top on a Bud Lite.

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#5

The Cold Haven

She shivered and wrapped her arms around herself, as if doing so would make her feel warmer. The day had begun well enough. It had been nice and toasty just a few hours earlier; a welcome change from the bitter cold of the past few days. In fact, it was so nice she decided to play hooky—just this once—from work, to just go out and enjoy the weather.

But by the time she got to the woods, one of her favorite haunts, it had gotten chillier and the wind was starting to bite. “What a bummer,” she muttered. “And I didn’t bring a jacket!”

Still, the beauty and tranquility of the place soothed her. Whenever she was here, she felt a sense of comfort that she couldn’t describe. It was like she was in her own little world. She had spent many hours on various occasions in this secluded place, but it didn’t look like she was going to be able to do that today. “Goodbye, my lovely haven,” she murmured regretfully as she patted the robust trunk of the tree she had been leaning against. “I’ll come back again, I promise.”

“If the trees could talk, they’d ask you not to leave so soon.”

She whirled around in surprise. Her eyes took in the man standing a few feet away from her. He was tall, with dark, curly hair, and a few days’ worth of stubble on his jaw. But what she noticed most (and set her at ease) were his eyes—they were twinkling with good humor.

She sighed.

The memory of that initial meeting almost twenty years ago had always remained fresh in her mind. With a flick of her wrist she opened the urn she was holding and gave it a little shake. “Goodbye, my love,” she whispered, watching through tear-filled eyes as her husband’s ashes were lifted by the wind and scattered among the trees in the very same woods where they had first met. It was still cold. Except now it seemed much colder.

 

# # #

October 20th Friday Flash Keyword: initial

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This contest is open to anyone. You need not have participated in any previous round to compete this week.

With the key word given, write a piece of fiction 350 words or less that contains the word in the body of the piece. It can also be in the title, but it must be contained in the story itself.

For this contest, your story has to be fiction or made-up. It’s not a narrative essay, like a typical blog entry. It needs to have a beginning, middle, and an end.

It can be any genre–mainstream, humor, horror, adventure, literary, slipstream, mystery, romance. It can be sexy, just not wildly erotic, okay?

You have until 12 noon (GMC-5) Saturday, October 21, to write a piece of fiction 350 words or less and send it back to me at gem4sixers@gmail.com. Please put FF in the subject line.

I’ll post all the entries anonymously on this site by Sunday.

Once the new round of entries are posted, any visitor to this site gets to vote and or comment on the entries by sending me the number of your favorite entry.

On Wednesdays, I’ ll announce the winner.

What’s in it for you? How about some bragging rights? And the chance to develop a few good pieces to submit for publication.

Your word of the week is:

initial

I look forward to your submissions. And good luck.

Friday, October 13 Winners Keyword: puppet

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Here are the winners for this week’s Friday Flash.

 

HAVE ANOTHER COOKIE

by Jo Pressimone

“Here, sweetie, have another cookie.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Puppet. Your cookies are as good as ever.”

“Oh, Paul, I will never forget when you were a boy. Everyday, after school you would be tapping on my door, pleading for cookies. But that was a long time ago. Now it seems that I never see you! Where has my Paulie been?” Mrs. Puppet’s very being exuded cheerfulness; everything about her smiled. Even her gentle chiding was done with pure love.

Paul shrugged guiltily. “Mrs. Puppet, I come as often as I can…”

“I know, dear. How is Amy? I still say she was the loveliest bride I have ever seen.”

“She’s as lovely as ever.” Paul’s broad shoulders sagged as he forced the words out, but managed a slight smile.

“When are you two going to have children? They need to taste my cookies!”

“The…The timing isn’t right, Mrs. Puppet.”

“You can at least bring your beautiful wife by. I haven’t even seen Amy since the wedding day. How long has it been now?”

“6 years, 5 months, 14 days.” Paul bit his lip ferociously and stared determinedly at the ceiling.

“That long? My, the days do fly! Why haven’t you brought her to see me?”

“Mrs. Puppet…” He hesitated on the verge of baring his soul to her. Everyday he sat in her apartment at the Green Valley Assisted Living complex and told her the same story, and it never got easier.

“My dear, you look so distressed! Here, have another cookie and tell me what’s wrong.”

The newspaper clipping Paul took from his pocket was discolored and well-worn. He handed it to Mrs. Puppet and held her hand as she read the article, dated exactly 6 years, 5 months and 14 days before. …accident resulted in tragedy… woman in passenger seat died on impact… driver in critical condition…other passenger unharmed…

Silent tears ran down Mrs. Puppet’s face. Paul allowed his tears to claim him as he sat down next to her on the bed and welcomed her hug.

“Here sweetie,” she choked, “Have another cookie.”


DARK DESTINY

by Frank Sirianni 

I was a teacher, Chiron the wisest of the Centaurs. I taught the Gods. I taught Achilles, Jason, and Heracles. And I taught Man. My Father, a Titan. My Mother, a Nymph. I was different than the rest. I was immortal. I had the power to heal, and had the power to see. I gave my existence to free Prometheus. I had my place in the heavens. How I miss Mt Pelion. How I miss Thessaly. How I miss.

For it’s darkness now. That is my existence. I no longer light up the heavens. Brought out of my blackened pit only to toil. A new master, for I am the new puppet. Where’s the Titans now. Where are the Gods? Do you suffer the new task master as I? Or do you hide in the heavens. When I’m brought out of the pit to work, I feel your connection, I feel your power course through my being. Oh Zeus why do you let us suffer so? Is your lightening only to ease my work? Is that all the power you have left? For I cannot heal myself to ease my pain. I cannot see in the darkness for what is to come. Or are you puppets as well as I, just sharing your strength so we will all endure the darkness and the toil.

Why did I teach Man? I am a seer. I knew they would learn and find their potential. I knew they would outgrow us, no longer have faith and believe in us. But I didn’t know that once they’d outgrow us, we would change. I could only see that in which believes in us, all else is darkness. A darkness misunderstood. A darkness that was our destiny. A darkness that was us.

“Okay boys, move your feet, I’m trying to vacuum here.”

“Okay mom,” said one of the boys as they both got off the couch.

“You too, honey. Move it or you can vacuum the rest.”

“No, I’ll go do something else. I don’t like that vacuum.”

“What, my centaur! It’s still got a few good years left in it.”

“Maybe! When your done, I’ll put it back in the closet.”