2018 FLASH FICTION AWARDEES
Congratulations to the winners of the 2018 Pikes Peak Pen Women Flash Fiction Contest!
We’re delighted to bring the top contest pieces to you, with permission of their talented authors. Each story is 500 words or less.
2018 Theme: Secrets
First Place: Betty Prisendorf | Merrit Island, FL| A Good Neighbor
Second Place: Tylie Prince | Crawfordville, FL | What Grows on Trees
Third Place: Theresa Gage| Auburn, WA | Not A Peep
Honorable Mention: Diane Hoover | Colorado Springs, CO |Possessions
READ THEIR STORIES!
2018 FIRST PLACE / “A Good Neighbor” by Betty Prisendorf
I could have forgiven her for winning first prize at the PTA Bake Sale–if that
Chocolate, coconut cake recipe was not a family treasure from my Grandmother “not to be shared ever or she will roll over in her grave.”
But, there I am, a good neighbor, four days after they moved in–treasured cake in hand.
“Sally, from next door” I say brightly. She is Delilah, Platinum Blond, with the green eyes of an ancient seductress.
She invites me in, makes tea, wolfs down two slices of my family cake
(how does she keep that figure?), begs for the recipe–says her mother-in-law sniffs at her baking efforts–Oh, how she would knock her socks off with this cake! Only once would she make it–her plea, sweet as the coconut frosting.
Sweet as the way she sidled up to Ben, my husband, at our yard sale,
batted those fabulous eyes and scored the almost new recliner which I had
priced at $175 for $25!
But let me tell you the most unbelievable thing–my “every weekend
sports fan, glued-to-the-television husband,” gave up watching football!
Through my back window I hear her cooing, “Oh Ben, can I tell you a
secret? My Jake is sooooo unhandy–he can barely change a light-bulb. Could you possibly (very close to him now) help me set up the Christmas decorations for our new yard? I bet you have some great ideas–how to place things in the yard, and well . . . just everything! I would be soooooo grateful. I promise to repay you big time.” (I can just imagine!)
So, the day after Thanksgiving, Ben plops down the last of ten huge boxes he has dragged down from Delilah’s attic. (Jake had a golf date.) She extracts her giant Santa Claus and is telling Ben where she wants it to go.
“Oh, and Ben, we’ll be in Minnesota for ten days visiting the in-laws so you just take your time.” I see her peck him on the cheek and flutter off for her standing appointment with the hairdresser.
Listen, I am not an evil person, but sometimes I get ideas in the middle of the night–ideas that seep into my brain . . . shout, “Yes! Just do it!”
So here she is, in my kitchen, black mascara running down her cheeks, sobbing, “Who could do such a horrible thing? Everything! Even my beloved Santa, gone!”
I pass her the Kleenex box, make her a cup of tea, slice some of my famous cake (recipe now on the internet), and say, “probably one of those anti-Christmas nuts–they’re all over the place these days. I don’t know what this world is coming to!”
PS . . . Ben is back to his football weekends–sinks into his chair, cracks open a Bud, and breathes a big sigh of relief.
About Betty Prisendorf: Betty is a member of The National League of American Pen Women, Cape Canaveral Branch. She joyfully writes poetry, plays and short stories. She wishes to thank the Pikes Peak Branch for their 2018, five hundred word, “Flash Fiction” contest, and encourages others to try this fun and challenging contest. She wrote, “A Good Neighbor” with her little dog Jack, sitting on her lap, occasionally moving things along by licking her hand and plopping a paw on the screen. Given his contribution, he would like some credit for the win . . . all treats gratefully accepted!
2018 SECOND PLACE | “What Grows on Trees” by Tylie Prince
“How old are you, Ellie?” she asked. She ran in circles around me.
“I’ve been here a long time. You could call me old, but you’d have to cut me open, like an onion and count my rings.” I gently touched her cheek.
“I would never do that,” she giggled.
She ran away, her feet barely touching the earth, like a whisper that would never reach your ears.
I’ve been around a long time, back before Trumpet Street became the road where the little girl lives, back before Ned’s RV Storage blocked my view of the trees with all the birds. Those were the grand old trees; their canopies surrounded them like crowns. They were the ones chosen for picnics, the ones with crooked hearts carved into them.
Twenty-three years ago, there was a murder here. A man killed someone beneath one of those majestic trees across the way. At dusk, when he thought no one could see, he hit the person hard from behind with a heavy rock. He came back with a shovel and buried the body deep in the ground. I didn’t know who to tell, so I stayed quiet. No one would have come to me about it anyway. Springtime bluebells grew above the grave like silent bruises.
Sometimes my secrets are too profound. It makes me sick inside, and outside I show it. I have hard and withered places. I have holes that run deep, that eat me up.
But the little girl who loves me no matter what – that has been the biggest surprise, the secret I will never tell.
The day we met, I was out in the back, sweeping, though the wind blew hard. It was fall, an especially blustery season.
“You’re the one Momma hates,” she said.
“I know,” I said. And then she grabbed my hand and gently tugged.
“I like that shade on you,” she said, and she pointed up. “I think you’re beautiful.”
And she unbent my old arms and placed herself within them.
The day I saved her life, she was outside, throwing piles of decaying leaves. A snake, red, yellow, black, and thin as a skinny branch, came at her, popping and hissing. It latched on quick, and she cried in pain, forcing it away.
“Ellie!” she yelped. “Tell my Momma.” She dropped into the grass.
How? I swung myself around, listening to things inside me breaking. The window in the kitchen shattered with my force, and the girl’s mother came running.
“You!” the mother yelled angrily as she saw my branches split in half, my trunk sideways, the house dented in. “You’re useless.” She began to walk toward the barn, wherethey keep the ax.
But then she saw the shivering girl, lying still in the grass behind me.
The girl’s mother quickly scooped her up, stopping for a split second to stare at me wonderingly.
About Tylie Prince: Tylie has enjoyed writing poems, short stories, and novels ever since she can remember. Most of the time, she likes to keep things simple: observe the world with a sense of wonder and perhaps a story will unfold. She lives with her three daughters and husband in Crawfordville, Florida, where she also teaches third grade. She has a fascination with “things that are not,” as referenced in I Corinthians 1:27-29, which provided her with some inspiration for this story.
2018 THIRD PLACE | “Not A Peep” by Theresa Gage
Kathy plastered her face against the aquarium glass. “They’re so cute!” She counted out her allowance. “I’m getting one.”
The Feed and Seed store sold rabbits and chicks every spring. My sister and I rode our bikes to see their latest addition. I never thought she’d buy one.
“You better ask Mom first.”
“I’m spending my own money. I’ll take care of the chick.”
The lady, behind the counter, put the chick inside a container that looked like a carry-out box for Chinese food with holes. Kathy held tight onto the aluminum handle as she walked out. She struggled with the container, while balancing her bike.
“Here, give me that thing.” I placed the container in my bike basket. “When we get home, you better hide it.” My sister’s freckled face beamed up at me. It was our little secret.
Kathy rushed inside with her prize. The house felt too quiet as I entered. I peered out the kitchen window and spotted our parents in the garden. Kathy lined her bottom drawer with a doll blanket. She placed the baby chick inside.
“Close the drawer. They’ll hear her,” I said.
“But Rosie can’t breathe if I shut it,” Kathy said.
“The lady at the store said she’s a Rhode Island Red. Roses are red.”
“Leave the drawer open a bit. What are you going to feed her?” I asked.
Kathy ran out of the room with her beach bucket and shovel. She returned a few minutes later with some bugs and worms. She opened the drawer wider and dropped them inside. The little things squirmed and revulsion rippled down my spine. The chick didn’t know what to do with the worms, but she gobbled down the bugs.
“Take the worms back outside,” I said.
I filled a small tin with water and brought it into the bedroom, but Rosie wasn’t in the drawer. I found her under the bed. Butch, our Pekinese raced into the room and squeezed under the bed. He barked and snapped at poor Rosie. I shoved Butch out of the way and snatched the chick. I felt her heart race against my chest. Kathy came back and took Rosie from me. Butch hopped on his hind legs, but I shooed him away. I shut the door, but Butch scratched at it.
“Bad dog,” Kathy said.
Kathy put the chick in the drawer and shut it. The door opened and Mom stood in the entranceway. She glanced from me to Kathy.
Peep, peep, peep.
Busted. Kathy pouted and opened the drawer. Mom took the chick and marched outside. We followed her. Mom opened the hen house and placed the chick under one of the hen’s wings.
Over the years, Rosie grew huge and pecked Kathy’s arms when she fed her. One day, Mom served Rosie for dinner. When Kathy found out, she refused to eat.
Tastiest chicken I ever ate.
About Theresa Gage: Theresa lives in the beautiful state of Washington with her spouse and two dogs. When she isn’t engrossed in a good book, you’ll find her engaged in her writing. Theresa is a member of the PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association), and holds a diploma from The Institute of Children’s Literature. Her credits include three short stories and a poem published by the Art Ascent Magazine, articles written for the Working Writer and Ezinearticles.com. Follow her blog at https://clawingmywayin.com/
2018 HONORABLE MENTION | “Possessions” by Diane Hoover
The harvest is over. Larry is on his way home. My children and I must finish planting the flowerbed and clean up the yard before he gets here or there’ll be hell to pay.
Fall colored leaves cover the grass like one of Larry’s expensive rugs. Dead brown leaves swirl skyward propelled by gusts of wind; their cloying scent catches in my nose. I feel as dead as the leaves. The leaves must be taken to the curb for pick up. No bonfires allowed in our yard. No weenie roasts or toasted marshmallows for my children to enjoy.
Crisp air brushes my cheeks. The sun pales as the earth moves toward its winter orbit. Soon we’ll be forced to stay indoors.
Round and round my daughter spins, lost in her world of fairy princesses and magic steeds as she tosses leaves into the air. I cannot scold her. Larry scolds her enough for both of us.
She stops spinning and casts a somber glance at me. “Let’s run away, Mommy.”
“Can we, Mom?” Son has dug too many holes for the number of tulip bulbs I’ve bought, but I don’t tell him to stop because digging holes relieves his stress. His blue eyes are pleading. “We’ve had a real good time without Larry, right Mom?”
A catch in my throat prevents me from responding. What have I done to them?
My son pulls on my arm, leaving dirty fingerprints. “Let’s go someplace where he’ll never find us.”
I look at my sun-kissed children, emboldened from their weeks of freedom from Larry, the first since the layoff six months ago. They’ve endured two terrible years with this man who smacked them if they touched any of his possessions, broke their spirit like he broke the dishes in his escalating fits of rage, yet polished my babies like he polished his furniture for public display. No one knew this side of him. No one knew what he did to my children inside.
When we first met Larry, he was caring and generous. Everything he owned was ours, he’d said, including his heart. It wasn’t long before he took everything back—especially his heart. Like his furniture and artwork, we had become his possessions.
Larry’s truck screeches to a stop at the corner. We look up like startled birds.
“He don’t own us, Mom,” my son says.
My heart thunders. I stand with shaking legs.
“Please, Mom,” my kids chorus in unison.
I can’t let them suffer his cruelty anymore. Moved by their boldness, and by the clarity of our perilous existence, I take their hands, and we walk quickly away from the sound of the truck. Our feet pick up speed. No one says a word. My legs gain strength and we walk fast, back to our previous lives that I’d been too easily lured from. We are liberated from him at last. Larry can keep all his possessions—except us.
About Diane Hoover: Diane lives in Colorado Springs, CO and has been a member, since 2005, of the Pikes Peak Branch of NLAPW. She first served as VP, and later as President of the Branch. “I’ve been a writer almost all my life, which has been forever! Over the years I have written 3 novels, almost one screen play, lots of haiku and other forms of poetry, non-fiction pieces, and many short stories, some that have been published, others placing in contests like my story, Possessions, in the current Flash Fiction contest.”
Diane says she took a long hiatus from writing because of health issues, (her own, and her husband’s), but now she’s hitting the keys again. Another of Diane’s passions is her love of music: namely Opera, Broadway, Folk, some Jazz and Bluegrass—in that order.
PAST CONTEST HONOREES
2016 Theme / Storm … Hidden … OR … Change
First Place: Marcia Goodall | Fresno, CA | Done
Second: Wanda Marie Tierney | Loveland, CO | The Truth
Third: Ingrid Jendrzejewski | Cambridge, UK | The Grandmaster
2015 Theme / Between Duty and Devotion
First Place: Terry Cobb | Harris, MO | That’s Us
Second: Carrie Sharp | Suttons Bay, MI | The Book Mobile
Third: Ingrid Jendrzejewski | Cambridge, UK | The Crossing Guard
Honorable Mentions: Joan Leotta | Clabash, NC | A Glass of Water & Charlene A. Potts | Westcliffe, CO | The Last Letter
2014 Theme / In This Moment
First Place: Linda Doyle / New Pine Creek, /Jasper Gordon’s Gone Missing
Second Place: Valerie Stauffer /Greenwich, CT /Moment Gone
Third (tie): Terry Cobb / Harris, MO / Now or Never
Third (tie): Ingrid Jendrzejewski / Cambridge, UK /The Window
2013 Theme / Hidden Amongst These Worlds
First Place: Cheryl Miller / Canon City, CO/ How I Bought Beachfront Property in Rifle, CO
Second: Laura Kjosen /Highlands Ranch, CO / The Allies
Third: Jaclyn White /Hoschton, GA / A Morning Theft
PAST WINNING WORKS
2016 First Place | Done, by Marcia Goodall
I burned his toast–again. He’ll beat me–again. He’ll threaten to leave–again. I’ll beg him to stay–again.
At least that’s what he thinks. But I’d had enough. If I didn’t put a stop to his brutality, he’d kill me.
I eased open the front door. Two men stepped inside. They sported brass knuckles and carried blackjacks.
“Angie!” my husband yelled.
I nodded toward the kitchen.
When they finished, my husband lay curled in a fetal position. He whimpered, “Help me.”
I walked away.
Months later, I sat down to breakfast. I frowned. He’d burned my toast–again.
2015 First Place | That’s Us, by Terry Cobb
I picked up another gum wrapper from the waiting room floor and shook my head at the diminutive culprit. “You know that’s disrespectful.”
She rolled her eyes. “My gum is yucky.” She spit it into her hand and reared back to pitch it.
“I’ll take that.” I grabbed her wrist and scanned the room to see if anyone was speed dialing Social Service.
She dropped the chewed-up wad in my hand and grinned. Her blue eyes, eyes we shared, twinkled. I melted. Damn, she got me again.
The door opened. “Amanda Cunningham.”
I took her hand. “C’mom, Mom. That’s us.”
2014 First Place | Jasper Gordon’s Gone Missing, by Linda Doyle
In this moment of unexpected clarity, she knew exactly what had to be done. He wasn’t much in life and would be even less in death.
Sheriff Longhorn pulled into the drive. “Morning, Miz Thelma.”
“Sheriff. What brings you by?”
“Jasper Gordon’s gone missing. Wondered if you’d seen him.”
“Came by 2, maybe 3 days ago. Me and my shotgun told him to scat. Ain’t seen him since.”
She sipped her tea as the sun sank lower. She wasn’t going to worry about the body under the house. At 85 she would enjoy every brilliant sunset she had left.
2013 First Place | How I Bought Beachfront Property in Rifle, CO by Cheryl Miller
They think it started in Winchester, Tennessee. A student at Franklin County High School texted her BFF during an assembly entitled Green Energy – The Wave of the Future. Sound and lighting were working. Computers were humming throughout the air conditioned school; bells awaited the clocks’ cue. The traffic lights in town were fully operational, and twelve lines were open at the Walmart. All across Winchester, machines were scanning, pumps dispensing, lights beckoning, systems protecting, refrigerators chilling, music playing, talk shows airing … And then the earth just sort of tilted. They reckon the girl’s texting was the last electromagnetic straw.