We've got results! Thanks to all who wrote this week, we had some amazing stories. If you missed any of them, go check them out here. Back? Good. Let's read what the judge had to say:
For my first time judging, you all didn’t make my job an easy one. Each and every one had something in it that made me want to HM it. I had a rollicking good time reading, thank you. Several of these went in a wonderfully unexpected direction: what is initially assumed to be "inopportune" ends up opening up unforeseen opportunities. A life lesson, here.
"An Egretful Morning" by Denise Callaway—A great start to the entries. First impression: I loved that you managed to get four elements in the very first paragraph. Then, the narrator’s fine observations of the activity of the hedgehog engaged me. The real impact of this story came in the second reading, after reading that last line. Suddenly the fun observations have gravity: her careful focus on the creature is a distraction from a lonely life. This one left me with a melancholy smile.
"The Wisdom of Spindles the Hedgehog" by @hollygeely—This one gave my favorite use of the inversion of "inopportune" into unexpected opportunity. The voice of this one grabbed me right away and the avalanche of unfortunate events kept me enthusiastically engaged—the MC’s attitude, though hilariously wry, manages to remain optimistic. I loved the repetition of the universal laws, especially as it culminated in the universe having the MC’s back. I laughed out loud over the postal worker’s diplomacy.
"Promises Broken, Promises Kept" by Tamara Shoemaker—Wow, what lush language. I’ll admit, romance is not usually my thing, but I’d have to be a chunk of wood not to recognize the fine craftsmanship here. I like how it’s never really clear if its romantic fantasy or a romance adorned in fantasy’s finery (with names like Oberon and Diggory, I wondered if what we might have here is a battle between faerie and wizard?) "… My name spoken to the tempo if the trail of kisses he attached to my jawline" "emotions tossed like loose banners in a brisk wind". Oh, sweet alliteration! The contrast in conceits used for Oberon (nature imagery) versus those used with Diggory (martial) reveal the vastly different approaches she’s taken with the two relationships. The allusion to the Rock of Cashel struck me, with its reference to conversion and triumph over evil)
Untitled by Geoff Le Pard—Brilliant opening with an concrete encounter with a superhero, which drew me right into your delightfully novel concept. I adore the MC’s perspective on the various heroes, her complaints. The tone is such that I feel like I’m chatting with her over the laundry counter. So many hilarious lines, my favorite being, "So they can be saved by a hunky piece of the supernatural"
"The Artist within Us All" by @stellakateT—That first paragraph says so much about the Ian character that by the time we hit the end, I’m ready to see the MC go all Hirst on him. My favorite: "He did a good mouth to mouth when I finally let him into the flat". I loved the development of the MC’s voice. She starts out resigned to Ian’s narcissism, even over the lack of invitations to join him in his travels. And then he brings up Destiny. Camel’s back broken.
"Longing" by Casey Rose—What is it about the image of a walnut that puts me immediately into fantasy mode? I love how the MC relishes every sense—and the reason for it comes clear in the end. Of course a will-o-the-wisp would savor material joys. Even before I realized who she was, I sympathized with her. So, what seems like a simple life of gratitude at the beginning takes on new dimensions. I loved the idea that she wanted to work through all the teas and that she also fell in love with books. Resounding line: "let myself believe that "adventure" could melt into "permanence.""
"She/He" by Michael Seese—I didn’t appreciate the pacing and structure of this one until I went back and read it again. The voice here seems to start off light and humorous. I chuckled over the flirting teapot and the personification of Earl Grey—and it distracted me from the crucial line (turning off the flame to the exclusion of the gas). I liked the contrast of making time stand still with time stopping cold. The list at first reading seems quaint, but on second reading reads like the con-side of a someone weighing the pros and cons of living. Loved the use of butterfly net and spiral. Then the shift: "it" becomes "him". The repetition of the second paragraph is stunned me. Now we know why the timing of the infant is "inopportune" (and, yet, quite possibly his salvation).
"Real Estate Blues" by Emily Karn—Inopportune indeed! I loved the manifestation of the crazy neighbors and the happy spin the MC attempted to put on each of them. Such a playful use of the special-challenge elements, the whimsy only heightened by the concrete descriptions of the teapot, the trundling hedgehog, the contrail above the road, etc. I giggled all the way through (and I would only too happily go live in that neighborhood).
"Hello, Mother" by Di Eats the Elephant—I love how the whole story is a single moment in suspension, a mother seeing her estranged son on her doorstep and trying to postpone the actual greeting so she can savor just seeing him again, and not "ruining the moment". With what? The reality is never made concrete, and in that way, the reader remains suspended in the mother’s memories, where he still thinks of her has the best mommy in the world, still calls her mommy, and shares pancake breakfast. I like the parallel with a drought-struck summer. Such a beautiful, heart-rending idea for a story.
"Waiting to be King" by Charles W Short—What a far out (literally far out) take on the prompt! One of the things I adore about science fiction is the way it can be used to hold up a futuristic mirror to today’s reality even as it reanimates an ancient story. The level of honor and restraint shown by the Davidicus stands in start contrast to the behavior of various warring factions in this world, making me long for such leadership (as I’m sure many ancient Israelites felt about David replacing Saul). I like how you set up our expectations that there might be a battle (despite the allusion to the biblical story), that the Saularian flagship might attack, and then the shrewdness shown by the Davidicus in avoiding conflict while besting the opponent anyway.
"Perfect Timing" by @postupak—I got my partner to cut and paste all the entries so I could do it blind, but I knew this was Rebekah’s as soon as "it" was revealed—though I should have guessed sooner at the hilarity of everything coming before it. I liked the unconventional voice, her memory sliding around to a more lovely past You successfully made it so I was right with the MC over the gorram toothpick-chewing! I love how your MC turns "inopportune" around into the perfect opportunity.
"Longing" Casey Rose—for the lovely and seamless use of the prompts
"Perfect Timing" Rebekah—for hilarity
Runner Up: @hollygeely for "The Wisdom of Spindles the Hedgehog"—for the ever-optimistic voice of Harry despite the avalanche of seemingly horrendous luck.
Special Challenge Champion: Tamara Shoemaker for "Promises Broken, Promises Kept" for the sublimely poetic use of the prompts, teasing the line between romance and fantasy.
Grand Champion: Michael Seese for "She/He" for the economical and poignant growth of a tragic character who finds a reason to turn off the gas.