The summer flew by, and we’re nearing the end of the dog days, which is why I chose this photo as our final prompt. My husband Dave took this picture of our dog, Ralphie, one overcast afternoon in Denver while we were visiting his parents. Ralphie had just had a bath, so naturally he had to roll around in the grass for a while. I was curious to see what stories my boy would inspire, and the range was impressive: from love to regret and from revenge to “irreverent deference.”
In “One Lunchtime” Karl A. Russell juxtaposes love and terror—leading us from unrequited love through a staged attack to a delicious afternoon romp. He writes with his usual cinematic clarity and hints of poetry, representing the carnal adventure with a well-placed ellipsis.
Image Ronin’s masterful humor is on display in “Return Ticket,” the story of a man who chooses reincarnation with lovely results. I love the carefully drawn details in this story: the plastic orange chair that sticks to skin and that raised manicured finger of the woman deciding his fate. Such well-placed details draw the reader further into the story just like a cinematic close-up—a perfect technique for flash fiction. Felix makes a great end, returning to life as dog. I’d choose the same thing.
“A Meeting of Pasties” by A. J. Walker is another love story with several layers—not just the potential romance between Ben and Isla but also the love between Karl and Ronin and Karl and Ben. And then there’s the real life layer of “irreverent deference” between A. J. and Karl Russell and Image Ronin—two masters of flash fiction. (I feel the same way about competing against them.) I love the sweetness of this story and the great line “guilt was hitting him faster than the calories.” I’d love to know what happens next.
The dog in Catherine Connolly’s story “Ceremonious Goodbyes” is metaphorical. Through a conversation between attendees at a funeral we learn about the deceased’s dalliance—the old dog—that caused his heart attack. Connolly does a marvelous job telling the story through gossip—leaving plenty of room for the reader to figure things out for herself, which is the mark of a good story.
Gossip also plays a role in Mark A. King’s “When the Mailman Chases Dogs.” Here we have the everyday order of a quiet suburb overturned by the mailman swearing revenge on his canine nemesis. King plays with rhythm and rhyme in lines like “mutts nuts on show grinning like a psycho” (which is a great description of the photo). His references to the hyperbole of social media hit home as well.
David Shakes gives us some marvelous imagery in “Unleash the Dogs of War,” a chilling story about filial revenge. He begins with the writhing dog, a specter of menace for the narrator—a harbinger of what is to come. In the lines: “Illicit meetings and stolen kisses / Smart uniforms and broken hearts / Black news and swelling bellies” he tells an entire story with lovely linguistic economy. The repetition of the line “It’s in his eyes” conveys the narrator’s horror, leaving the reader with gooseflesh.
Strong writing and clarity of imagery mark “Unbound” by Wisp of Smoke, a story about the end of love and regret held at bay. The narrator’s almost jaunty tone belies the reality of his feelings, which are revealed in a last line that punches the reader right in the gut.
And then there’s “Ralphie’s Itch” by fellow Luminous Creature Emily June Street. I’m not ashamed to admit that this beautifully written story left me in tears—in the best way. Emily has the advantage of knowing Ralphie and knowing how Dave and I found him (through the Milo Foundation, a Northern California dog rescue operation). With the simplest of phrases she captures my husband: “the gentle gaze of a slender man with glasses.” And I’m delighted by her description of me as “elfin.”
Voima Oy offers a completely different perspective on the prompt in “I am a Cat.” The feline narrator does not hide her disdain for the humans and dogs of the story. Through a simple juxtaposition of night and day, Voima captures the difference between cats and dogs, cat people and dog people. I’m especially charmed by the line “insomnia and the moon are her familiars,” the cat’s description of her mistress.
Carlos Orozco blends the canine with the feline in his cleverly-titled story “Curiosity Killed The.” He gives us a Hell made of an eternal expanse of green grass, marred only by the appearance of a dead dog named Kat. But the narrator, who doesn’t heed the warning sign, suffers the same fate. I’m left wondering how many bodies will pile up next to that warning sign.
And now for the winners:
David Shakes, 2nd Runner Up
Wisp Of Smoke 1st Runner Up
and this week’s winner:
Congratulations!! Your story will appear on our blog tomorrow for #Mondayblogs!