2019 FLASH FICTION AWARDEES
Congratulations to the winners of the 2019 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, incorporating the word prompts: fire, amber, harmony!
2019 Winners are:
First Place: Pamela J. Jessen/Colorado Springs, CO/ Lady in Amber
Second Place:Theresa Gage| Auburn, WA | Fiery Display
READ THEIR STORIES!
First Place: Lady In Amber
Firelight flickers/Amber glows/Hunger sated/Harmony grows.
Marta’s fingers stroke the clay and fabric doll, murmuring the chant as she winds strands of her daughter’s hair around the scraps she’s formed into this image, presses Glen’s nail clippings onto the stubs of ill-formed hands and chants the phrase again:
Firelight flickers/Amber glows/Hunger sated/Harmony grows.
The door to her bedroom bangs open and her daughter, Rose, glares in at her. “Mother! What are you doing?”
Marta glances sideways at her daughter, sighing heavily. Perhaps she’s waited too long to share certain things with Rose.
“Nothing, dear.” She pushes the scraps-and-clay image into a dresser drawer, palming the faceted piece of amber from the center of her creation. “Did you need something?”
Rose smooths unruly dark hair back from her forehead.
“Mother, you promised. You don’t want Glen thinking you’re some crazy old lady.”
“I worry more about you.” Marta slips the stone into a pocket. “You don’t think I’m crazy, do you?”
“No, of course not!” A grim smile curls across her face. “Eccentric, yes; crazy, no. So, stop with this. . . this, whatever this is, and pretend to be a normal person for one night. Okay?”
Marta rubs her thumb over the amber, feeling the fire from the dark heart of the stone course up her arm, settling at last under her ribs near her own thumping heart.
“I can’t promise to be Glen’s definition of ‘normal,’ dear,” Marta says, then noticing her daughter’s clenched expression, adds, “but I will try.”
“Yes, yes, you say that all the time.” Rose relents then, giving her mother a genuine smile, just a touch of sadness around her eyes. “I guess a little sympathetic magic now and then can’t hurt – just don’t let Glen see that thing you’ve stuffed in your drawer.”
“Of course not, Rose.” She takes her daughter’s arm, giving it a little squeeze. “Should we make Glen a special supper?”
“What did you have in mind?” Suspicion lurks at the edges of her words.
Marta smiles. “What’s his favorite dish?”
“Spaghetti, I think.”
“Ah, that was your father’s favorite, too.”
Glen pushes his plate back and sighs. Fire smolders in the fireplace behind them. He traces his fork through the leftover sauce that coats the plate. “Did you do something different? Not that I’m complaining, mind you, but it tastes . . .”
“Different?” Rose says, glancing at her mother.
“An old family recipe,” Marta assures them, stroking the halves of amber in her apron pocket, feeling the now-empty center of the stone, silky residue coating her fingers. Moonlight would restore the halves and reseed the spiky interior, as it had for all the women in her family. Soon it would be Rose’s turn.
Rising, Glen pats Marta’s hand and plants a kiss on his wife’s head.
“You two can cook for me anytime.”
Firelight flickers/Amber glows/Hunger sated/Harmony grows.
About Pamela: “I have been writing short fiction and poetry for a long time now and have been fortunate to have a number of my stories and poems published in a variety of publications over the years. Living in Colorado with great views of snowy mountain peaks helps with inspiration as well as the always-helpful writer critique groups I’ve been privileged to be a part of over the years.”
Second Place: FIERY DISPLAY
The smoke alarm’s loud buzz startled me awake. I tossed my robe on and hurried down the stairs. Smoke poured from the microwave and my mother stood in front of the open door.
The TV newspaper was on fire inside the microwave.
“I spilled juice on it, and I tried to dry it,” Mom said. Her amber earrings glowed in the firelight.
I shoved my hands in some oven mitts and plucked the paper from the microwave. I tossed it in the sink and sprayed water on the paper. I glanced at my eighty-seven-year-old mother, dressed in her bra over her blouse, and realized I couldn’t work nights any longer. Sleeping during the day wasn’t an option. I’m lucky Mom hadn’t set herself or the house on fire.
I opened the window and waved the smoke out.
“Let’s change your clothes.” I grasped Mom’s hand and led her to the bathroom. Mom slipped her feet out of her sooty white tennis shoes. Juice and smoke harmonized on her pants and I yanked them off. I washed her hands and checked her over. Thank God, she hadn’t burned herself. Tears sprang to my eyes. It could have been so much worse.
Mom patted my back. “Everything is fine, dear.” She farted and exited the bathroom.
“Do you hurt somewhere, Mom?” Fear set in. Did I miss something?
Mom laughed like a roller coaster with its ups and downs.
I shook my head and laughed along with her. We were safe, but the TV paper was history. And I searched for a new job closer to home with better hours. Family is everything.
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.
PAST WINNING WORKS
2018 FIRST PLACE /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.