Monday, March 29, 2010

"Memoirs of a Fat Kid" by Craig Gehring

I was one of those fat kids, one of those rolly-pollys that breaks into a juicy, glazed doughnut sweat whenever he goes to the effort of sitting down. One of those kids that could have survived the Titanic incident from the insulation of his own blubber. A great walrus of a kid.

Every day after school, all the boys would rush to the basketball courts. The courts were half a mile away. I would take my time, waddling at a nice easy pace so my massive curdled legs wouldn’t chafe, snacking on a box of Little Debbie Homemade Brownies, you know, the kind with the chocolate chunks smothered in chocolate dip sprinkled with greasy chocolatey almonds on top. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. We’re all lardy fat kids at heart.

And I would get to the basketball courts, finally, after an unending twenty minute ordeal. It was like the great migrations of the sloths. Except slower. And fatter. I would be drenched in foul-smelling, gluteus maximus odored sweat, and the skinny little basketball stars would stare at me, glistening, and say, “You can’t play, fat boy.”

That’s what they would say, every day. “You can’t play fat boy.” And I would sit down and watch and eat powdered doughnuts as I contemplated on how great a basketball player I could be, if only I had a chance. If only fat boy could play. I wasn’t even tall. I was just fat. But I could have been great, and they would’ve nicknamed me “Fat Boy,” but it would have had a nice connotation. They would say it sweetly. “Nice shot, Fat Boy,” “Excellent dribbling, Fat Boy,” or “Fat Boy, you’re my hero.”

But it never happened.

I took it all in stride. I had a great sense of humor. I used to tell jokes about myself. The ladies loved it. Especially the fat ones. I had a whole routine.

“What’s the difference between me and a pizza? A pizza can’t feed a family of 203.”

“What’s the difference between me and the moon? The moon only eclipses the sun once a year.”

“What’s the difference between me and an obese walrus? Absolutely nothing at all.”

And so I trudged through life, wallowing in the lard of my own bleeding self-esteem. I would choke out my misery with Hershey’s Kisses, Hershey’s Hugs, Hershey’s Almonds, Hershey’s Nuggets, Little Debbie Zebra Cakes, Little Debbie Star Crunch, Little Debbie Angel Food Cake, and Hostess Twinkies. I had no buddies but Skittles, no compadres but M&Ms, no one who cared but that great big juicy slice of lemon marangue pie—and those little chocolate chip cookies you always get as free samples at Albertson’s. I could always take four or five, and the fat bakery lady would always just nod at me knowingly. She was a fat kid too. We’re all lardy fat kids at heart.

If I was ever reincarnated, I would want to be a dove. Doves are never fat. Doves are never made fun of for who they are. Doves just fly and eat and sing and love. And they’re beautiful. And everyone loves them for that. And it’s simple. It’s so simple, and warm.

And then I met a girl. Her name was Sally. She had the prettiest brown eyes in the world. But she wasn’t a fat kid. See, most fat kids have pretty eyes, whether they really do or not. I would say, “I’m a repulsive porker.” And my mom would want to make me feel better. But I was fat. So she would say, “Honey, look at me for a second—you have the most beautiful eyes in the world.” In other words, “Honey, your eyes aren’t fat.” But Sally had the most beautiful eyes, and the sweetest smile in the world. She never made fun of me, or the six jelly rolls of my stomach that would cling to my shirts. She sometimes even spoke to me, little infinitesimal syllables of glee upon my gluttonous nonexistence. I fell in love with that skinny, freckled, brown-haired, four-eyes, zit-faced, gum-diseased, halitosis-breathed woman of my dreams. But I knew a flabby Ding-Dong chomping hot air balloon would never have a shot at her.

I engaged in a rigorous weight loss program. I starved myself. No more Mentos, no more Starburst, no more beef jerky, no more steak, blocks of Colby Jack cheese, or special ordered McDonalds quadruple quarter pounder meals—the McDonald’s guy was fat, too—or Nestle Crunch, or Nilla Wafers, or Nestle Tollhouse Chocalate Chunk Cookie Dough. I would power-walk around the neighborhood. Little kids would stick their heads out their windows and scream, “Hurry hurry, fat boy!” and “Run, fatso, run!” I would be in pain, the gelatinous coils of fat beneath my reverberating flab clenching tight in reaction to the strain. I would finally reach my house, the insides of my monumental legs rubbed raw as dead cow from the friction between them. It was a whole block that I walked, and Sally would get me there. I would huff, “Sally,” between each choking breath to remind me of my paramount objective. When I would finally reach my house, I would chomp down on a family-size bag of Reese’s Pieces, and then I would collapse on the couch, like a great whale beached on the surf. Except louder. And fatter.

I lost four pounds the first month, two in the second. I took to power-walking around the school’s track. The track team would be there, and Coach would say, “Look at that little fat kid walk. He’s got more heart than any of you.” And the runners would say, “No, he’s just fat.”

I had catchy phrases I would repeat to myself to keep me going. Besides “Sally,” there were “I think I can, I think I can,” “No more fat,” and “Shake the bacon.”
Finally, I tired of the endless attrition I pitched my blubber into. I decided it was time to ask out the love of my life. Fully emblazoned by the ten pounds lost somewhere to oblivion, and three chocolate shakes still fresh on my stomach, I rushed headlong toward her, my dear Sally. Unfortunately, I’d already told a friend what I was going to do; consequently, Sally was alerted to my plans long before I got the guts to address her. “Hey Sally, you, uhhhhh…..whuuuu….” That’s what I said. My last words to Sally.

And Sally said, “No way, fat boy.” Sally’s last words to me. My face fell, a prize-winning walrus squealing off a cliff. I waddled away. I waddled away from school. I waddled home. I waddled myself to bed and cried myself to sleep. It was like the great Noah’s flood. Except wetter. And fatter.

I still love you, Sally. I still miss you, wherever you are. Whenever I see a man with acne, and a moustache, and a sweet smile, I remember you, and I want to cry. We could have been great, Sally, great. We’d go together like peanut butter and jelly, like cookies and milk, like fudge and coffee, toffee and skittles, cheese and wine, bread and butter, raspberries and cheesecake, ice cream and chocolate, apples and cinnamon, watermelon and cantaloupe, beef jerky and saltine crackers.

Except…Good-bye, Sally.

Craig Robert Gehring lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with his wife and one year old daughter. He writes fiction across many genres and is presently on the final draft of his novel The Nirvana Effect. You can learn more about Craig and his work at

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Taming the Hulk" by Karen Cantwell

Mothers can relate to The Incredible Hulk.

We all have those gentle Bruce Banner moments where our lives and children are calm, enriching and fulfilling. Birds sing on our shoulder while we bake cookies and our well-mannered kids sip lemonade on the front porch. Life is good.

On the flip side are the moments that initiate the Hulk sequence. Kids fight over the remote control while the dog relieves himself on the new carpet.
Simultaneously, the brutal rainstorm outside reveals more holes in the already-leaky-roof and little Johnny’s teacher is calling to ask why he hasn’t turned in any homework for two months. Mothers lose control during those darker moments and the thrashing green monster is unleashed. It’s not a pretty sight, but it happens to the best of us. In fact, if any mother ever tells you she’s never had a Hulk moment – she’s lying.

My name is Barbara Marr and I am a mother who understands the Hulk phenomenon. I have been known to Hulk-out. But one frustrating day, not too long ago, I stumbled upon an unlikely antidote: cheese balls.

At 5:25 p.m. on that fateful day, I had one headache, two doctor’s visits to reschedule, three daughters giving me the evil eye, four piles of clean laundry screaming to be folded, and five minutes to get to ballet class which was twenty minutes across town. Husband Howard had called to tell me he would be working late for the twentieth night in a row. My pulse was increasing exponentially and the Hulk countdown had begun. My veins were turning green.

“I don’t want to go to ballet today!” wailed my usually good natured Amber, her blazing red curls accentuating her current temperament.

“Those lessons are expensive, young lady – you’re going. I was dollars away from having to sell a kidney to pay for them.” I pointed to the stairs. “Go get your bag.”

I picked up the phone and punched in some numbers. “We’ll go as soon as I reschedule these appointments.”

Amber crossed her arms across her chest, stuck out her lip and glared me down before turning to stomp away.

A woman answered after three rings.

“Schmenck, Schmenck, and Yang Pediatrics, can I help you?”

“This is Barbara Marr. My daughters, Bethany and Callie had appointments with Dr. Yang at four o’clock. You’re not going to believe this – it sounds crazy, I know – but I couldn’t find my car keys for over an hour. I turned the house upside down. That’s why we missed those appointments. I have them now though – the keys that is.” I ended with a chuckle hoping to add some levity to an otherwise gruesome tale. “Can I resche . . .”

“I confirmed those appointments myself yesterday, Mrs. Marr. You should have mentioned then that you would be unable to keep them today.”

This woman obviously didn’t understand my situation. The Hulk doesn’t like to be misunderstood. “No, I couldn’t find my—“

“Our next available appointment is October 20th.”

“But that’s . . .” I counted on my fingers. “ . . . five months away!”

“I can put you on our waiting list.”

I sucked down a deep cleansing breath to hold the Hulk at bay. “But they need physical exams before they can go to summer camp. I have to turn the forms in next week.”

“I can put you on your waiting list.”

“You think I’m lying. I can tell you think I’m lying, but it’s the truth. You should have seen me tearing the house apart looking for those keys. I finally found them in the freezer next to the peanut butter.”

Bethany, my ten year old plopped down in the chair in front of me, ballet bag over her shoulder, pen in one hand and notebook in the other. She leaned patiently against the kitchen table. Meanwhile I kept fighting with the Nazi receptionist to secure appointments sometime sooner than the next solar eclipse.

My voice was starting to shake. “I was a freaked out lunatic. Here, my daughter will tell you.” I shoved the receiver in her face. “Tell her, Bethany.”

“She was a freaked out lunatic.”

“It’s true. I would never tell my daughter to lie for me. I need your help. I’m begging you.”

“Would you like those appointments on October 20th?’

“No, you see, October is AFTER summer. We need the exams BEFORE summer camp. Isn’t there anything you can do for me?”

“I can put you on our waiting list.”

Schmenk, Schmenk and Yang were celebrity pediatricians. Women got on a waiting list to be in their practice before conceiving. Northern Virginia Monthly ran an exclusive five page article exalting their medical brilliance and business savvy. Supposedly they were the best in the area. Personally, I didn’t see much difference from our other pediatrician. I mean, they gave the same shots and the same advice. It’s not like they were handing out designer antibiotics. But I had pulled some tricky political strings to get in with these people and I wasn’t going to lose my prime status now by flipping out and upsetting the staunch gate keeper.

“Yes, thank you. You’re so kind.” I hung up the phone and squeezed my head like a melon trying to relieve the constant throb.

“Mom, I need you to answer a survey question for me – it’s my homework.”

Dropping my posterior in the chair next to hers, I peeked at my watch before laying my head on the table. We were now officially late for ballet lessons.

“They’re still giving homework?” I asked. “School’s almost over.”

“Mrs. Pratt says she’ll give homework right up till the last day. She says we have to constantly be learning because soon we’ll have SATs to take and that could make or break our choice of college which could affect our entire future.”

“But you’re only in the fourth grade.”

“Mom, stay focused. What’s your idea of the perfect day?”

“That’s the survey question? Nothing about hypotenuses or the Big Bang Theory?”

“Mom . . .”

“Okay, give me a minute.”
I rubbed my head again and closed my eyes. My perfect day. Today was not a perfect day. It was a nightmarish day. Thinking back though, so many days were like today. Running from lesson to lesson and tutor to doctor to orthodontist. There was always something and it was always important. Ballet was important for coordination and motor control – their pediatrician told me so. And piano lessons were critical for the learning process – their teacher told me so. Or maybe it was the child psychiatrist on the Today Show. Who knew anymore? With so many “experts” out there, it was hard to keep track.

Then there was Amber. She was two points under the national average on her pre-reading skills test so the tutor was imperative or she could be left behind eating the dust of millions of gifted kindergartners out there tearing through Harry Potter.

And I had my organic cooking class, “Cook Healthy, Raise Healthy Kids.” Twice a week I barely made it to class on time to learn the value of feeding my children chemical-free foods rich in nutrients. I thought my new dishes were quite yummy, but the girls . . . they weren’t so enamored. Once, I caught Amber sneaking over to her friend Penny’s house for hot dogs and macaroni and cheese.

There were just so many things to know in this parenting game – so many things I had to do right, or it would all go wrong and they’d end up homeless, cancer-ridden drug addicts begging for pennies on the corner of Despair Street and Loser Lane.

“Mommy! Callie called me an itchy shoe!”

I opened my eyes to find Amber two inches from my face.

“Shichimenchoo you dope. Not itchy shoe.” Callie joined Bethany and me for a sit-down at the kitchen table. Her bent posture and grim face indicating her teenage displeasure with the world in general. A sophomore in high school, she loved confusing us all with foreign vocabulary words, courtesy her new favorite class, Japanese I.

“Translation please.” I rubbed my temples. Hulk wanted out.

“Turkey. I called her a turkey. She stole my new purse and put bugs in it.”

Amber’s saucer eyes signified her innocence. “Not bugs – butterflies. At least they’ll be butterflies one day. Probaally”

“Okay, quiet everybody. I need a minute to think. I’m helping Bethany with her homework. Then if we high-tail it, we can still catch thirty minutes of ballet.”

“I have homework too!” Amber crawled up in my lap and started poking my nose with her chubby little fingers.

“You are such a little freak show,” Callie sneered.

“I’m supposed to count something in nature, so I chosed to count the freckles on Mommy’s face. Now I need to start over. You broke my consummation.”

“Concentration, dip brain.”


My blood pressure was escalating second by second. I didn’t want Hulk to show himself, but I didn’t know if I could stop him. “Callie. Please, let her count.”
As Amber slowly and meticulously touched and counted brown spots on my face, I watched hers. Her clear, perfect skin, just beginning to be speckled by the dots she inherited from me. Her bright, blue eyes shimmered as if they radiated light of their own. Her pink, pouty lips were perfect by all accounts. I marveled at her sweet, warm breath on my face – still a child’s breath, untouched by the ravages of time. I realized that it had been weeks, maybe even months, God forbid years, since I’d really looked at my sweet baby. A wave of calm blew through me and for a moment, Hulk receded.

“ . . . fifty-three, fifty-four, fifty-five . . . Fifty-five! You have fifty-five freckles on your face.” Amber leaned back, smiling proudly at her accomplishment.

I pulled her in and kissed a soft cheek, then hugged her tight.

Callie sat across from me, her face propped up by her hand. No smile on her clear, lovely face, no sense of joy.

Bethany, a thing of beauty in her own right, was next to me was glowering under a dark cloud of annoyance. She wanted an answer to her survey question.

What had I done to my children? To me? To our family? In my frantic need to do everything “right” and make their lives perfect, we had all ceased to be happy. We were scurrying around like rats in a maze, living by someone else’s rules. And nothing was perfect.

I looked at my watch. If we jumped in the car that very minute and I ignored all posted speed limits, we could make it to ballet and still get twenty dollars worth of lesson. I could still proudly tell the doctor that the girls get exercise every week and announce to neighboring mothers that my girls have never missed a ballet lesson at the Elite Academy of Dance. Ever. Hulk would have to appear to make that happen, and the girls would go to bed miserable, having seen Mom at her worst. Again.

Or . . . in what can only be described as a flash of brilliance, I got a better idea.

“Girls,” I announced. “Change of plans.”

“What does that mean?” asked Amber.

“We’re scrapping ballet. Callie, be the sweetheart I know you can be and get the picnic blanket out of the upstairs closet.”

She raised an eyebrow. “We’re going on a picnic?”

“Of sorts.”

Bethany did not look pleased. “I need to get this homework done.”

“This is your homework. Trust me. You’ll love it. And everyone bring pillows. Lots of pillows.”

Amber wars liking this game. “Can I wear my pajamas?”

“Wear whatever you want. Meet me at the front door in five minutes.”
While the girls padded around the house collecting blankets and pillows and changing out of leotards, I grabbed a few items of my own and snuck them into a large brown paper bag. A Ziplock baggie finished off my list of necessary items.

At the front door, loaded down with pillows and blankets, the girls waited. I could tell by the looks on their faces that they were concerned their mother might be one step away from Loony Bin Central.

I opened the Ziplock baggie and held it out. “First, turn over all cell phones.” Callie gave me her I’m-a-teenager-and-too-cool-for-this roll of the eyes, but slipped it in the baggie anyway.

“Thank you. Now, anything electronic that plays music, video games, adds, subtracts, multiplies, downloads an “app,” pretends to be a dog, cat or alien pet from a distant dying planet.”

The baggie filled to capacity as the girls pulled items from pockets I didn’t know existed. I zipped it up and laid it aside.

“Now for the adventure. Everyone out and follow me.” I didn’t even wait for the questions and quizzical looks. I picked up my mysterious brown paper bag and marched to the backyard. The air was dry and warm. Prime for what I had planned.

I loved my backyard. The thick green lawn stretched gracefully from the house until it met up with a line of trees that encircled the house on every side. It was a major selling point when we bought the house – a large yard for the kids to run and play, private for special family times and also wonderful for entertaining. Yet we rarely even saw it anymore. Howard, mowed it religiously every Saturday, treated it with fertilizer and weed killer, then forgot about it until the next weekend. It was kind of sad, really. So well cared for, yet oddly neglected.

The girls arrived slowly, very confused, but they arrived.

“Can you lay out the blanket, Callie?”

“This is our adventure? The backyard?”

“Please – I really think you’ll like this.”

Reluctantly she laid out the used-once-only quilted picnic blanket. I moved to the center, put down the bag and sat my rumpus down.

“Come on girls. Sit.” I patted the blanket.

Bethany and Amber sat first, hugging their pillows, joined by Callie who sat on hers and hugged her knees. Ever so slowly, I pulled my surprise out of the paper bag. The girls stared, wide-eyed. They were speechless.

“What’s that?” Amber asked, breaking the awed silence.

“I know what those are – those are cheese balls,” answered Bethany. “Ashley Masters gets them in her lunch every day.”

“Correct,” I said opening the large cellophane bag. “These are cheese balls. They’re made from over-processed corn-like products, artificial colors, artificial flavorings, and MSG. None of which is good for you and probably causes cancer in laboratory rats if you feed them enough. The beauty of the cheese ball is that it’s smaller than its cousin, the cheese curl, and therefore, pops effortlessly into the mouth, just so.” I munched on the crunchy prize, savoring its junk-food goodness.

“And you’re going to let us eat them?” Bethany asked cautiously.

“Go for it.”

All three girls smiled and grabbed for the bag. Within seconds, they looked like chipmunks, their cheeks bulging while they chewed. I pulled out a second bag and joined them in the munch-a-thon.

After a few minutes, I passed around cans of soda. “No junk food is complete without two thousand grams of sugar water to wash it down with.” I gulped with pleasure. “Isn’t this the life?”

“Where did you get this stuff?” Cheese powder spewed from Bethany’s mouth as she talked.

Sheepishly, I had to admit that I kept a stash of my favorite junk food hidden deep in my bedroom closet, partaking of the delicacies only after they were all asleep or at friends’ houses. I thought the girls would be mad, but they just laughed.

“Is this supper?” Callie asked after a long swig on her drink.

“Sure. Why not?”

She looked at me oddly, then smiled. “Cool.”

“And what do we do after this?” Bethany asked.

“That’s the best part. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

Amber beamed. “Boy, Bethany, I like your homework a whole lot. I can’t wait until I’m a fourth grader.”

Without caring about the clock, we lay on our blanket, heads on our pillows, watching the sun filter through green tree leaves, sparkling and dancing and it sank in the western sky. Yellows turned to golds, turned to blues turned to purples, and soon we were counting fire flies in the dark. We talked about our dreams, about fairies and leprechauns, whether trees can feel pain, what life would be like if we never grew up, and if it was really true that cats and dogs only see in black and white.

We held hands, rubbed backs and took turns braiding each other’s hair. I learned that Bethany had a crush on Max Higgins, Callie thought her Japanese teacher was “kind of cute” and very smart, and Amber thought boys were “icky.” The girls admitted they all hated ballet, but Bethany thought singing lessons would be fun. We told stupid knock, knock jokes and laughed so hard that soda came out our noses.

If the phone rang, we never heard it.

If the Department of Homeland Security raised the terrorist threat level, we didn’t know. We didn’t care.

Life was good. Life was perfect. Hulk was long gone.

And when Bethany turned in her homework assignment, she had only one answer to one survey question.

“My mom’s idea of the perfect day is eating cheese balls in our backyard until the sun goes down.”

The very next day I called our old, less famous pediatrician who gladly gave us a timely appointment. Then I called Elite Academy of Dance and told them we wouldn’t be returning for any ballet classes. The fact that they wouldn’t issue a refund didn’t even register on my Richter scale. I had a long and calm talk with my husband, who agreed to less work and more family time. And that oddly neglected backyard – we spend hours out there now.

In retrospect, I realized something important. The antidote to a Hulk attack wasn’t the cheese balls at all. It was what the cheese balls represented: love and fun.

Simple ingredients really.

After all, what is life if love isn’t fun?

Just ask the Hulk.

The End.

Karen Cantwell's novel Take the Monkeys and Run was a semi-finalist in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest (under its original title, Monkeys in My Trees). Her latest short story, "The Recollections of Rosabelle Raines," appears in the mystery/crime anthology, Chesapeake Crimes: They Had it Comin' published by Wildside Press. She is also the creator and moderator of this blog. To learn more about Karen and her works of fiction, visit

Friday, March 19, 2010

Flash Fiction Contest: Untitled by Joshua Majarrez

"If this were a cartoon, instead of a bell ringing I'd have a crackhead playing a glockenspiel." He always felt his best ideas came after having a couple of cigarettes up on the roof.

"Don't be a jack-ass. We just smoked a joint the size of a tree trunk. Yer just as stupid as you've always been," she replied.

"She's just depressed and mad," he thought. "If I beat her to this, she's all done."

His thoughts began to drift again.

"If she's depressed and mad, wouldn't that make her both blue and red?"

"You're purple, girly-girl!"

"I'm what?"

"Never mind, let's go down and have a snack. I'm starving."

She still won, again.


Thursday, March 18, 2010


Tomorrow I will post the last of the submissions for the Fun Flash Fiction Contest. I want to thank all of those again who submitted their stories. They were wonderful - my co-judge, Misha Crews and I had so much fun reading them. I will be holding another contest soon, so stay tuned!

On Monday, March 22nd, I will re-post one of my own favorite short stories, "Taming the Hulk," featuring Barbara Marr, the main character in my novel, Take the Monkeys and Run. It is a funny look at mothering in the modern age. Please come by for a read.

Then I am most excited to announce that Monday, March 29th, I will be posting "Memoirs of a Fat Kid," a short story by Craig Gehring that was published in American Fiction Magazine. I was blown away by this funny and touching story when I read it, and Craig has graciously allowed me to post it here. I am honored and know you will all love this delicious piece of fiction as much as I did.

So enjoy tomorrow's story, and do please come back for more in the following weeks!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Flash Fiction Contest: "A Serene Day in Southern France" by Michael Chiara

Jon scanned the horizon for enemy aircraft. His patrols had recently been so uneventful - and the weather so pleasant - as to lull an unsuspecting pilot into an unearned sense of well-being. He hadn't lasted four years in the Royal Air Force by being careless, and he didn't intend to let his guard down now. This late in the day, visibility tended to diminish rapidly as the sky turned almost purple. Reassuring himself that all was in proper order, he noticed the bulge in the pocket of his weathered brown leather bomber jacket.

With a puzzled look on his face, he felt in his pocket, and smiled with relief when he realized that it was just one of the mallets for his glockenspiel. The glockenspiel was a gift from Lizabet, the daughter of the French politician he had flown out from behind enemy lines amid a storm of shrapnel and small arms fire. Jon found that playing his glockenspiel before a mission helped him to fend off the all-consuming fear that gnawed at his guts like a pack of hungry dogs when he flew. These days the only time he felt truly safe was when he was softly striking the chimes of Lizabet's present under the old shot-riddled oak tree by the runway.

He snapped out of his reverie and looked over his shoulder just in time to see a flicker of movement at the edge of a fluffy white cloud high above him. Could he have imagined it? He stared longer and still...nothing. Jon was letting out a sigh of relief as the German Albatross dove out of the cloud and made a beeline straight for him!


Monday, March 15, 2010

Flash Fiction Contest: "Every Ordinary Day" by Patricia Caspers

When Ingrid thinks back on this moment it feels as though she stood in Carey's bedroom with her eyes closed for hours. She hears the first drops of rain splatter the window, someone playing what sounds like a glockenspiel in the bar below, water running through the pipes in the wall. It's only taken a minute for Carey to work up his courage, but in that time Ingrid's cheeks have become bright plums, and she can feel the color, nearly purple, creep down her neck, searching her chest. At least I'm wearing my coat, she thinks.

"Place your hands out flat," Carey says, "As if you intend to push me away."

Exactly what I'm planning, Ingrid thinks, resisting the urge to peek through her lashes, and then she feels them: feathers.

They're not the loose feathers she saw circling Carey's apartment, though. These feathers are alive, ruffling and unruffling, attached to bones like tiny branches of trees. She keeps her eyes closed, not wanting to know what she's touching, not wanting to be frightened out of this moment. She carefully runs her hands up and down the length of these - what? wings - and she's never felt anything as soft, until she stretches her arms higher and touches Carey's hair, and in the spark of a second before recoiling, his curls feel like newborn fuzz.

When Ingrid opens her eyes, Carey stands with his back toward her, and on his back are wings the same colors as those scattered throughout his apartment. She touched them, him. Fondled, she thinks, and turns an impossible red.

"It's a costume?" she stutters, already knowing the answer.

"They're mine," Carey says with a shrug that releases a few feathers. "You're the first person I've shown."

"Jesus," Ingrid swears.

"Eros, actually."


Patricia Caspers is a genre-crossing writer (poetry, essays, fiction) and stay-at-home mom learning to live in The Woods. Her poetry manuscript Life With Fever is a finalist for the Many Mountains Moving book contest. She blogs at Fish Head Soup

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Flash Fiction Contest: Untitled by Susan Henderson

The chosen tree was large, its branches gently stretching to the ground but not quite touching the damp soil. Here is where they would place it. The plot of earth stretching out in front of them as far as they eyes could see. The horizon filled with puffy white clouds, the sky dressed in shades of blue and gray, and if you turned your head just right, the slightest hint of purple. "Squint real tight" she told me, "See that speck off over in the distance, that must be our neighbor." I tried, but all I could see were the gardens overgrown, long past their productive colorful past, tendrils of vines dried up and broken, that surrounded me. The day was just beginning, and already the heat was sticking the shirt to my back, and my hat band was filling with sweat.

We weren't used to the quiet. The past fourteen years had been spent in the city horns honking, sirens blaring - everyone searching for something that we were never able to find. It had taken six long years for our plans to come together. Our first night on the road brought back the sharp memory of a cross country car trip as a child, when my sister Eileen's favorite doll was left behind at the motel. She cried about it for a day or two, aching forit, and then gradually seemed to forget about it. That was what I hoped for, and counted on. The forgetting part.

I promised myself, every few months, we would come out to the shade of these large trees on the top of the hill, unpack the glockenspiel and once again use its melody to stir up the spell of this day, when just for a split second in time, we were happy.


Susan Henderson blogs at On the Garden Path.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Flash Fiction Contest: Hammer Head by Wendy Slobom

I wasn't sure what I was hearing but the sound kept "pinging" in my head. It seemed part of my dream but as I slowly surfaced out of my deep sleep, I realized it was not in my dream but exterior. I opened my eyes and tried to look around, no good. This was going to be tough, I wasn't used to partying until the wee hours of the morn.

And that weird light last night really freaked everyone out. But it had stopped its perpetual searching through the trees, and we decided it must have been a police helicopter looking for a "perp."

As my eyes came to a fuzzy focus, all I could see was purple. As I took a raspy breath, I realized I couldn't breathe that well either.

"What the...?" I thought as I started grabbing at cloth on my face.

I frantically pulled at it, and the more I did, I realized it went round my whole head like a Q-tip. Was this a sick joke my friends were playing on me, you know, do weird shit to the drunk guy? I tried to move but my legs were bound.

"Hey, you guys!" I tried to yell, but it came out muffled and I was fighting to breathe through the cloth.

And that sound, still pinging loudly along with the scream, only now I could tell it had different tones to it. It reminded me was a glockenspiel! Who the hell was playing it? Why the screaming?

The next thing I knew something was grabbing my whole body and lifting me into the air, the in utter horror, I figured it out.

I was the mallet for the glockenspiel and I screamed as my body was hurled down.


Wendy Slobom is from Seattle and is just starting to spread her wings as a writer. She is writing a children's book with an education theme woven though it and looks forward to the positive effects it will have on children's lives.

Flash Fiction Contest: The Tiny Glockenspiel by Brian Meeks

Resting on the table made from the Peltogyne tree, more commonly called Purple Heart, was the tiny glockenspiel. It has been there long enough that one could measure the time with a simple wipe of a finger across the dusty bars. A fine instrument, one that brought melodies to the ear and smiles to the faces of many football fans waiting for the second half. Those were the little glockenspiel's happiest days.

He didn't get to attend college with his player. High school days, and marching under the Friday night lights had been replaced by lectures and beers with friends. The little glockenspiel didn't figure into those plans, and so, he sat, on the tiny table, with a song unsung in his tiny heart.

From the table into a box he went, and the time passed. His little steel bars yearned to ring out, especially middle c. The tiny glockenspiel became resigned to his dark lonely world. He could hear things on on outside, he knew that there were people moving about, he heard them talking. He heard the voice of his player now and again.

He heard his player talking with her parents; she had brought a boy home to meet them. She showed the boy her room. He teased her about her posters and the band uniform hanging in her closet.

The lid of the box opened, the player took out the tiny glockenspiel, and rested it on her round belly. She hammered a few bars and sang, "Hush little baby..." then whispered, "This will be yours one day," while she rubbed her belly. The notes were clear; the glockenspiel was, for the first time in years, happy. She polished it, treasured it, and never put it in a box or out of her mind again.



Brian Meeks has been blogging since January of 2010. You can read his stories and other posts at Extremely Average

Flash Fiction Contest: "The Souvenir" by Colleen Tompkins

"Help!" Martha screamed.

Hector reeled from the impact, a one-two sucker punch to his gut.

Threats in German, but robbery needed no translation.

"Martha, shut up!" Hysterics only made things worse. He felt the knife tip scrape his ribs, catching on his cotton shirt.

What a disaster: the turburlent flight over, the train to Munich and now this. Stupid glockenspiel. They had wandered away from the oversized cuckoo clock and its jousting knights looking for something cheaper than the overpriced cafe on the Marienplatz. He wished he'd stayed home to prune his fruit trees instead.

"Hector, do what he says!" Martha clutched her waist, drawing attention to the money belt tucked under her overpriced, wrinkle-free travel blouse.

Hector wasn't listening. He was back at Lansky's eastside gym, Sid hanging off his left shoulder and whispering advice he hadn't heard for forty years.

Watch his eyes - he's telegraphing where he's going to hit.

No way was this jackass getting his money.

He craned his neck upwards. Even through cataracts he saw the guy aiming for his temple. Maybe - big guys always moved slower.

Hector raised his left forearm, blocked and finished with a roundhouse kick. He felt his pants ripping as he followed through.

The knife clattered to the ground as the kid gasped, a purple welt already forming on his cheek.

Martha sucked in her breath like she did whenever he did something wrong.

But something happened: his opponent turned and ran.

Hector picked up the knife, ignorning the arthritis spiking through each vertebrae as he straightened.

"Souvenir?" It hadn't cost him a dime.

Martha's eyes glistened and the corners of her mouth curled ever so slightly. Hector took her hand and squeezed it as they walked back to the Glockenspiel cafe. Europe wasn't so bad after all.



Colleen Tompkins lives and writes in Vancouver. She is currently working on a thriller novel, Exit Strategy.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Flash Fiction Contest: Haiku by I. Michael Snyder

Roosting on dogwoods
Birds grace Purple flowered trees,
Nature's Glockenspiel


I. Michael Snyder is an IT Manager in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Flash Fiction Contest Honorable Mention: "Rachel's Request" by Laura Sherman

Rachel knelt carefully by the side of her bed. A fat, blond curl fell over her eye. Patiently she swept it back into place behind her ear.

"God," she began. Then she stopped. Hm, maybe the maker of trees and rain might not want to be addressed so formally, without feeling.

She cleared her throat and started again, "Dearest God. I would like to ask you for something. You see, at school we have every instrument you can imagine in our music class. I wanted to play the French horn, but Johnny got to it first. He's fast.

"So, then I tried to get the Tuba, but Jenny said I was too little for such a big instrument. I tried to tug it away from her, but it wouldn't budge. Jenny's right. It's way too big.

"All that's left was a sad little xylophone. It was sitting all by itself on the shelf. Old and worn out. I looked up at the teacher, hoping that there was something else. he said, 'You're a lucky little girl. You get the Glockenspiel!' He sounded so excited I didn't want to disappoint him, so I picked it up.

"Jenny laughed at me, so I told her to mind her own business. I hope that was OK. Was it? Um, so I'm figuring, since you're all knowing and all, you probably saw me stick my tongue out at her. I'm sorry about that too.

"So, I'm asking you for forgiveness. That's what mama said I should do. But since we're talking, I thought, while I was at it, I'd ask if you could maybe turn Jenny's tuba purple. I thought that would be really funny."

She stood up and then knelt back down quickly. "Sorry, I forgot. Amen!"


Laura Sherman is a freelance writer and chess coach who lives near Clearwater, Florida with her husband and three young children. She blogs at Friendly Writer and Say Yes to Chess

Thank you again to all who entered this contest. The rest of the entries -- all wonderful indeed -- will be posted over the course of the next two weeks. I hope everyone will stay tuned and read all of these fantastic short pieces. Trust me, you will be entertained!

Flash Fiction Winner: "Bad Fit for the Crit Group" by Simon C. Larter

"Her muscial voice tinkled in his ears like a glockenspiel?" Frank's snort of incredulous laughter had cut short Sara's reading, and now she stared at him, blinking, mouth opening and closing, goldfish-like. "Seriously?"

"I . . . I-" Sara began.

"No, honey. Just . . . no." Frank chopped the air with a bladed hand. "You just can't use similies like that. Can't. That's godawful."

The flush started at my collar and worked its way over my cheeks to my temples.

Stunned silence weighed on the group, until Don coughed into his hand. "Er . .Sara, would you like to go on?"

Frank folded his arms across his barrel chest and leaned against the seatback, eyeing Sara balefully from beneath bush brows. One boot heel tapped against the tile floor in jittery rhythm.

"No," Sara mumbled, crimson to the dark roots of her blonde hair. "Someone else go."

He let Sophie get all the way through her story. A muffled sigh of relief breezed through the room. Frank frowned and nodded to himself. But Don's tentative encouragement stumbled to a halt a few sentences in when Frank harrumphed and sniffed loudly.

"I don't think so," he said. "Don, is it? No. You're wrong. Missing the forest for the trees. Sophie clearly intended the moon as a veiled reference to Artemis, not merely as scenery. Well done, good lady!" He frowned and nodded brusquely in her direction.

Sophie blinked three times in rapid succession, then made a show of fumbling in her handbag for a tissue.

He told Craig his prose was purple. Mary used too many adverbs. Ralph's "voice" was twee. Twee?

After he'd gone, I apologized to the group. "He seemed nice when I met him in the bookstore," I said. "I'm sorry."

It took months for them to forgive me.


Simon Larter graduated from Drexel University with a degree in Civil
Engineering. His work has appeared in Per Contra and Flashquake, and
is forthcoming in LitNImage. He lives with his wife and three children
in New Jersey.

He blogs at
Constant Revisions


Check back tomorrow to see who won our "Honorable Mention Award."


We have a winner! The winning entry will be posted tomorrow, Monday, March 8th and the Honorable Mention will be posted Tuesday. All others will be posted in random order, one each day over the next two weeks. I will send emails to all entrants to let you know what day to look for your story.

Misha and I want to thank you all for providing us with so many amazing and fun stories to read! It was a joy, except that the decision was NOT easy! These were all very well written, well told stories. It was a CLOSE race. Bravo!

I will definitely be holding similar contests in the future, so I hope everyone will check back often or subscribe to receive my blog by email to stay updated.

So remember to stop by tomorrow and see who won the first, Fun Flash Fiction Contest!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My First Blog Award

Wow! Thank you Sam Liu at Thoughts, writings, coffee. . . for giving me my first Blog Award. I proudly add this to my blog. Part of the rules of accepting this award is to pass it along to fifteen other blogs and I love and follow. Therefore, I hereby bequeath this award to:

The Sound of Splinters
A Blog of One's Own
Always Musing
Angel Guided Mentoring
Constant Revision
Dear England: A Letter From America
Muse Ink
Musical Musings
Pics and Poems
Tangerine Kitty
The Book Buff
The Comedy That is My Life
Short Stories by MLockridge
The Journey Toward Publication
Rice in the Cupboard

I love these blogs, and recommend them highly.

If you are on this list, go ahead and grab your award and please pass it on to fifteen other blogs you feel deserve such recognition. Let them know they received their award by leaving a comment on their latest post.

And as always: HAPPY BLOGGING!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Announcing Parenthood Week -- Seeking Stories

Well, the Fun Flash Fiction Contest has been a tremendous success and it has been so much fun reading the entries as they come in! We're judging over the weekend and posting the winning entry Monday, so check in and GOOD LUCK to everyone who entered. Don't forget to those still sitting on the fence: the deadline is Friday at midnight EST. You still have time!

NEXT ON THE CALENDAR: Parenthood Week -- March 22 - 26

I'm calling all writers to flex their literary muscles and pen a 1000 word or less fiction short story with parenting at the heart of its theme. It can be funny, sad, reflective -- ANYTHING with parenting in its story will be accepted. OR maybe you already have a story sitting around. Just remember to please keep it clean (no excessive bad language or violence, etc).

Send your submission to: and write PARENTHOOD in the subject line. You can paste it into the email or attach as a Word file. Also add a short bio and website/blogsite addresses.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Recollections of Rosabelle Raines by Karen Cantwell

"Rosabelle Raines had lived at least a thousand lives, and much to her dismay, she could recall them all."

That's the opening line of my newest -- and now PUBLISHED -- short story, "The Recollections of Rosabelle Raines." This, and nineteen other exciting and bone chilling mystery short stories are featured in Chesapeake Crimes: They Had it Comin', now available on or at Wildside Press.

Rosabelle Raines lives in post-civil war Alexandria, Virginia and must deal with the unusual ability to see her past lives. The problem for Rosabelle is that whenever she has a glimpse of a past life, she knows that very soon in her present life, a similar experience will befall her again. After touching the hand of handsome Eli Witherspoon, she recalls a life where she witnessed a vicious murder. Knowing the same is certain to happen again, she seeks to stop the crime before it occurs. Can she unravel the mystery of Mr. Eli Witherspoon in time to prevent another death?