Reheated leftovers this week, folks. Sorry. Back next week with new and exciting adventures from Many Lost Ways.
I’ve recently been participating in a couple of “flash fiction” writing contests, where the host offers a writing prompt – a phrase, a photograph, a word – then sets a word limit and deadline. The contests are Flash! Friday (careful Googling that) and Christian Flash Weekly.
I’ve had some recent success, winning Grand Champion on Christian Flash Weekly and 1st Runner Up on Flash! Friday.
Here are the lauded pieces:
Christain Flash Weekly:
Length: 500-700 Words
Prompt: Psalm 23:5 NIV (Or the translation of your choice.)
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Running a quick errand one night, I skidded into a place called Eternity.
Everyone goes to Eternity but hardly anybody plans on it. When it’s your time, it’s your time.
Eternity sounds like a hip night spot, but it’s really supper clubby. You enter through a dim bar and check in with an aging hostess and then wait. It’s very ’70s – shag carpet, oranges and earth tones – and it’s hot, dry, and crowded.
Everybody has a glass but nobody has a drink. They all hold dusty, dry highballs with a cocktail straw in them and nothing else.
It made me unbearably thirsty.
“Just the water,” I told the bartender, and in my hand was a glass. I had been holding it for years, had always trusted it was there, but had never seen it.
I put it to my lips and drank deeply, and was refreshed. The glass remained full to the brim, and above the brim.
“So you’re one of THOSE,” said a woman next to me.
A woman but not a woman.
Her head was misshapen, like a burlap sack holding a ball of writhing snakes. It pulsed and squirmed beneath a bad wig. Her rose-tinted glasses hid where eyes should have been.
The woman rapped her dry highball glass on the bar and glared at the bartender, who only shook his head.
“I supposed you’ll expect to be … seated,” the woman said to me. She paused at “seated,” spat it scornfully from a mouth that wasn’t a mouth but red lipstick vibrating in a loop – the drawstring on the sack holding all those snakes.
“I know a Guy,” I said, and drank the water.
“But will He know you?” she said, the mouth flexing and pursing. “You? A liar? A cheater? A thief?”
I looked at her quizzically.
“Oh I know you’re not a … a thief,” she said. “Not like that. But, dutiful in your work, were you?”
I’d never thought of it as stealing, but sure, I cheated. I played hooky now and then, padded an occasional expense report.
Her point dawned on me. I was a thief, and therefore wouldn’t be known here. Anxiety poked my belly.
But I drank the water, and was relieved.
Annoyed, the woman tapped her glass on the bar. The bartender shook his head.
“Your wife then,” said the woman – the accuser – rising from her stool and stepping toward me. “Faithful to her were you? Forsook all others, cherished her and so forth?”
The words were hot, angry, convicting.
I was faithful to my wife, and loved her dearly.
But my eyes wandered. I coveted and compared. I said cruel words and damaged her.
Hot guilt throbbed in my chest. Surely He would deny me!
But I drank the water and was comforted.
The woman angrily banged her empty glass on the bar. The bartender shrugged.
“What about HIM then!” She advanced toward me, a bony finger in my chest. “He wanted to speak with you so often, each week! But you couldn’t be bothered to get up in time! And did you introduce anyone else to Him? Stand for Him?”
She was over me now, still a small woman but at the same time taller than me. I cowered and sank to the floor. The drawstring mouth yawned, beyond it a forest of yellow teeth and beyond that a throat of fire.
How right she was! I believed, but when did I witness for Him? How many did I bring to Him? Not one!
He wouldn’t know me. It was this woman – this accuser – who knew me. It was this beast that would have me in Eternity.
Tears rolled from my eyes. My trembling arm sloshed the glass toward my lips, but she held it fast. The mouth grew larger, the throat fire roared.
“Christian!” the hostess bellowed, hauling me to my feet with one hand and shoving the woman away with the other.
The accuser shrank back to the bar, furiously pounded her glass upon it. The bartender shook his head once more.
“Come,” said the hostess, dusting me off. “Your table is ready.”
Length: 140-160 words
This photograph, plus the admonition to “include a thunderstorm.”
I fly the memories up, up, up to the secret place and plant them like seeds in a garden, then tend them until they bloom the only way stone can, into structure.
Knock on one door, you’ll find me with Mommy, not in my memory garden but the green garden, teaching me to plant and tend, singing silly songs until sunset. That’s a happy door.
Another door is Daddy, but it’s the only Daddy door, an old memory and Daddy can’t make new now.
The dark doors, the crumbly doors, are when Daddy hurt mommy and the darkest is the time Daddy hurt Mommy then slept while thunder roared, and while he slept I flew his memory here.
And now you ask me for the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth about that and you climb with your questions, but the secret place is up, up, up too high for you to reach.