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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Flash Fiction Contest, Week 6!

Hi y'all...

Welcome to Week 6 of the Tales of Whoa/Potato Chip Math flash fiction contest... but first, a reminder of the rules:

It's very simple: we give you a prompt, and you write 500 words or less (including the prompt, if it's words -- which this week, it isn't!).

You can write in any style that you wish; just be sure to use the prompt exactly as it is shown, keep it under 500 words, write it in English, and ensure it's completely made up (this is a flash fiction challenge after all).

Next week Andrew and I will post the pieces we liked the best and will do a shout out on Twitter to those folks (if they so desire; if you'd like us to recognize you there, please include your Twitter handle). After a few months we'll compile a list of our favorites and we'll get the Internet to vote. The winner will win stuff (to be determined, but we're sure they'll love it).

This week's prompt is a photograph.  Valentine's Day is Friday -- and this one has a romantic bent, although you are (of course) free to travel with this inspiration to dark places, if you prefer!

 [image courtesy of photographer D. Sharon Pruitt and the Creative Commons]

Use the comments below to submit your work.  You can submit anonymously if you want, but wouldn't it be nice to be recognized?

The deadline is Tuesday, February 18, 2014, at 8:00 PM EST.

Have fun!


  1. She stood, as she had been standing most of her life. Warm air currents moved her hair, her shirt, and the petals of the flower, but not her life. Standing still, and yet in full motion, she called out, “Now is the time.” No one answered.
    As she did every morning, she put down the flower, quieted her voice and began to prepare for another day in the tumultuous classroom of slightly narcissistic youths who might grow to be aware of more than themselves, or not.
    In her classroom, there were flowers, and a small, hidden room heater. She like to believe that the time really had come for her to use the force she had stored to cause change. Opening the lesson, she said, “Is there such a thing as potential energy?” The students paused, looked at her as if staring at a statue, and no-one answered. Again.
    That night, she wondered, “Is now the time?” And yet, come the next day, she had to pretend to believe again, and again and again. Such is the strong force that draws us together, we humans, we particles.

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  3. She stood, arm outstretched, ready to hand the rose to him. For nine years, every Valentine's Day, he had been the one to give a rose to her. Nine years, and nine roses pressed into her diary she had held on to since high school. She had wanted the tenth Valentine's Day to be special, from the first minute to the last.
    The first three had been easy. The relationship new, the honeymoon period still in full swing. They would go to romantic dinners, take romantic walks around the city, and fall asleep in each others arms at each others' house. Those were the easy years. Every one, he had given her a flower. She would turn away for a moment, every year, and when she turned back around, a single red rose in his hand.
    The next three, the surprises got harder, having shared parts of their lives with each other. They were no more diminished in meaning, but the words and city had now become stale with overuse. They had taken to the skies, now, to see other cities, other countries. These were the traveling years, and for the weeks that they escaped from their stagnant patch of the world, there were surprises. There were new romantic dinners, romantic walks around new cities and sights, and he would always manage to steal away a rose for her. She would turn her head and in his hand, a single red rose.
    The last three had been a trial. The vacations had stopped, the romantic dinners and traveling had been replaced by a simple card and a kiss. Maybe they would sleep with each other, to consummate whatever hung between them, but it was a gesture of good faith between the two. Work had consumed them both, and out of college now, priorities of adulthood and begun to take their toll. Stress had somehow emerged in the relationship, and however hard they had tried to keep it at bay, it inched into their house, their lives. The roses came in vases now, not being home at the same time now becoming a constant.
    Now, on their tenth year together, she would give the rose to him. She hard a card and chocolates too, symbols however stale were still symbols. She had called out of work for the day to surprise him at home when he arrived. Now, she waited, glancing back and forth between the clock and the door with avid ferocity, the passage of time testing her patience. He was late now, uncommon, but not unheard of. She sat to wait, instead now, placing the rose on the end table. When a knock came to the door, she grabbed the flower in expectation. She swung the door open, pressing the rose out.
    A man in uniform removed his hat in response, asking to be let inside.

  4. Gift

    Behind her she heard the rattle of a skateboard over cement. “Kay! Hey, Kay! Hold up!”

    She held up and stepped out aside. It was the boy named Aloha. He had on a baggy shirt over his thin frame and floppy, ragged shoes that slapped on the cement. He rode that skateboard right up to her, kicked it up into his hand like a pro.

    “Here,” he said and thrust something at her. “Take it.”

    “What is it?”

    “A flower, stupid.” He held the precious peachy-pink rose in his grubby fingers. “What else is it gonna be?”


    “It’s Valentine’s Day, duh. Here, take it.”

    “But,” her soft voice embarrassed her when his was so loud, “we’re not…sweethearts.”

    He rolled his eyes. “Yeah we are. Don’t you remember what I said to you when you came into our class?”

    “Oh.” She had thought it was a cruel joke. She’d never mentioned it to anyone.

    “I’m gonna marry you when we’re grown up,” he told her. “Don’t forget.”

    She accepted the rose from him and said nothing. He was exuberant. Blonde. Bright-eyed. Everything she wasn’t, with her dark curling hair and dark brown eyes. “I won’t if you won’t.” Carefully, she smiled at him, a genuine thing that she felt from her heart.

    His smile was full of spaces. “I won’t.”

    She kept the rose in a slim glass vase on her beside table. She looked online for ways to preserve the flower and pressed it flat between a fold of wax paper and dictionary. Its scent lingered in her dresser drawer. When she brought it out, thinking of him, she could still smell the rich, light fragrance and she remembered his promise.


  5. If Bridget had known she was expected to grow roses, she would have planted them. No one in her right mind would want to go against Rita’s wishes. On the other hand, someone should have told her, because Rita always said, “Ignorance is no excuse.” And she meant it.

    Bridget eyed the bed of dahlias and zinnias. She had started them from seeds in the winter and babied them until they were ready to plant in the plot allocated to her. Fertilizer, water, just the right amount of sun, plucking away bugs and dead leaves by hand. In full bloom, riotous with yellow, red, pink, and orange, Bridget’s flower garden shamed Madge’s scraggly pale roses on the left and Eustace’s sad carnations on the right.

    Rita only visited the compound once a year, and tomorrow she would arrive early, expecting to see exactly what she had ordered. Bridget knew what outcome of that visit would bring, and she felt faint.

    I can’t let myself get caught up in fear, she thought. She stood in the midst of her brilliant flower bed and watched Madge fumble with the roses.

    “I have to think of something!” she muttered. By mid-afternoon the idea came to her, and she embraced it. With regret she began to hoe at the roots of the dahlias and zinnias. By the end of the day, every bright bloom lay wasted.

    The lowlys were forbidden to talk to one another except on Sunday evening, during the hour between six and seven. Even then they were allowed to speak only of Rita’s magnificence. That was the night before. So now, no one could ask her why she had destroyed her flower bed.

    At bedtime, Bridget tricked the Keeper and did not swallow her sleeping pill. By midnight, everyone else in the dormitory slept soundly. She slipped out of her narrow bed.

    By one-thirty, she had dragged Madge’s lifeless body to the flower bed. By sunrise Bridget had buried her deep, and smoothed the dirt. She worked feverishly in Madge’s pitiful rose garden, clipping and deadheading, plucking bugs and dying leaves.

    Rita arrived before breakfast, her enormous bulk burdening the muscles of the men who carried her in the palanquin. An entourage of servants in full livery marched behind.

    Rita turned her sharp eyes on every aspect of the compound, calling “Halt!” often. From time to time, one of the lowlys was taken away by servants.

    Bridget shivered in the hot sun, watching as the palanquin drew closer.

    At last, Rita arrived at the rose bed. From her perch, she studied the blooms. She pinned her haughty gaze to Bridget who approached, holding out a pink rose.

    Rita sneered, slapping away the rose. “Pathetic. You should have grown something colorful and bright, not this anemic offering. Bah!” She flung out one hand. “Off with her head!”

    Two servants stepped from the entourage. They laid hold of Bridget and escorted her to the place of execution.