Our prompt this week got people up all kinds of places. If you missed any of the stories, go check them out here. My office chair prompt inspired its use as an office chair both writing and playing video games, on a honey-do list, as a pole-dancing prop (how does that work, exactly - no, nevermind), and as a lure to ask a handsome coworker on a date. All of which are wonderfully valid uses for an office chair... As I must choose one, I will go with MY best use of an office chair - to write. So, congratulations to Lauren Greene for her writing protagonist in The Clown (Though it's use was before the story took place...) Now for this week's judge's comments on the actual prompts:
This has been a special treat for me with a wide range of stories, from sombre to surreal, from humdrum to hilarious. The prompt took people into fantasy, senility and outrageous sexism with a superhero thrown in. Thank you everyone.
The Clown by Lauren Greene
I love to learn new words so coulrophobia ticks a box for me. This story starts bizarre, slips past weird and farce and smashes headlong into creepy. I love the little distraction in amongst the craziness ‘I heard the front door squeak open; it needed some WD40’. Why even in the worst moments do our brains latch onto the mundane? This tale’s nasty sting has shivers written through it.
Basic by Susan O'Reilly
The cringy embarrassment of a teen for a parent is beautifully portrayed here. ‘She is a naturally lithe sexy woman whereas I take after my dear lumbering dad’. A teenager’s worse nightmare, to be the child of a MILF! I really enjoyed the ‘it is hard to try and be sexy when it’s your mom teaching you’. I enjoyed the use of senses, including the rather perfectly pitched non-use: ‘I wish I was blind and deaf’.
Moon Roses by Stella Kate
This is so touching, the old lady fighting her battle with her mind and clinging on to herself grimly. The frustration ‘Why was I living in this prison?’, the residual snobbery ‘When did anyone in my circle ever call tea supper?’; and the need to retain self respect ‘Wish I’d put better underwear on.’ In amongst the futile bid for freedom, up the ladder and on the roof her memories are clear. Her mother’s hero, Genghis Khan; seeing Frank Sinatra; tasting cheese. Nice use of sense as memory here.
The List by Charles W. Short
Here we have a late night digging husband; this has to be bad news for the nagging wife. We’re in suspense to know why now and how will the dirty deed be accomplished. What was the final straw? It was yet another list of tasks. And the trigger this time? ‘Get rid of your bad attitude’. So he did. Perfect.
Moth King by Nancy Chenier
This story was so sad; the little lad Santi catching moths because they stole his big sister’s smiles. The angry mother narrator doesn't endear herself at first - ‘That girl has been trouble since she nearly killed me being born’ but when Santi says, ‘Papa can’t even stop them’ and we understand what she means by ‘a hulking thing moves in the shadows of my memory’ the tale takes a darker turn and we forgive that frustration. Those moths fluttering, making their escape convey so much. And some of the imagery is special: ‘I sigh around a stab of annoyance’ ‘His little boy desperation melts me’. ‘I put myself into no-nonsense stance’.
Untitled by Mark Ethridge
The sadness here deepens with every line as we understand this little eccentricity – up at tree at 3 am – is symptomatic of a much bigger, deeper and possibly unsolvable problem. The inevitability of the outcome, despite both man and woman wanting a simpler neater solution is painful. ‘I wanted to tell her I would be OK. But in that tree, 30 feet off the ground, at 3 AM I couldn't because I honestly wasn’t sure I'd ever would be.’ A masterful piece of writing.
Nighttime Troubles by Robin Abess
This was a neatly yo-yoing piece. On the one hand the surreal – Peter is one the ceiling and doesn't know how he go there; on the other prosaic- ‘Answer me or I’m telling Mom...’ Big sister bullying younger brother with the age old threat. Peter – neat name, Peter Parker as a boy perhaps? – has special powers and these are used to embrace the special challenge – eyesight of an eagle, hearing of a bat and sense of smell of a wolf. The cunningness to convince his sister she is sleepwalking is one challenge overcome but the bigger remains: ‘Now to figure out how to get down AND what was happening to him.’ A whole set of Marvel comics perhaps?
Bold Ergonomics by DB Foy
The change to the prompt was unique: ‘up that thought-stream- the schizoid narration a hoot ‘Don’t objectify him’ ‘Maybe he’d like being objectified’. The setting was prosaic – an office cubicle while a chair was being put together but the inner dialogue created a world it was fun to inhabit. Lovely, lovely descriptions ‘Just a little strategy and a throw-on frazzled grin and I’d reeled him in’. ‘Clark Kent glasses and legs long as winter nights by the fire with cocoa’. The war between the voices – Merkel reason v Putinesque indifference – to the consequences - reaches a fever pitch as the chair nears completion – ‘A black phoenix rising from the ash of bubble wrap and cardboard box’. Which voice will win? I think we know early on – the inner librarian is slain and she asks him out. Go girl!
Special Challenge Champion:
Basic by Susan O'Reilly
Bold Ergonomics by DB Foy – I’d love to hear how that date went! Me too!
Moth King by Nancy Chenier. I kept coming back to this, to the way the tale pointed you at a back story that was deep and troubling. So well done.