Got a Light?

IcebergWell, I’m having way more fun with NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge than I had with the Short Story Challenge earlier this year, which gave me the boot after Round One. I’ve made it to the Final Round of the Flash Fiction one, and submitted my last 990-word story to the judges over the weekend. Rambling writer that I am, I’m surprised to have made it quite this far in a contest that’s all about getting to the point, but actually the ruthless editing (“Aww, what a sweet thing to say…” Delete!) has been kind of fun.

The assigned genre for this final round was Open, meaning any old genre you want, which I saw first as a blessing, in that it wasn’t “Ghost Story” or “Spaghetti Western”, but then saw as a curse, in that it gave me no direction to go in with the no-help-at-all location prompt — An Iceberg — but have ultimately decided to embrace as a blessing because now I don’t have to categorize the story I ended up with. The assigned item was A Lighter, and it eventually set the scene. Participating writers are encouraged to “interpret your genre, location, and object assignment in uniquely creative ways…” so I’ll either get big points or get disqualified for this one. We’ll find out which in January! Herewith my final entry in this year’s challenge: 

Got a Light?

Of course I knew she was a dude. Just cuz I’m not gay doesn’t mean I have no sense of adventure. She had legs for days and a butt you could eat breakfast off of. I figured if I took her home and fucked her, when we were finished she could flip me over and fuck me right back, and you don’t hit that jackpot every day. That’s what we all loved about the Iceberg: you never knew what was gonna happen, but if you kept your wallet handy and your wits about you, you were guaranteed a wild time.

So named because its street-level frosted-glass cocktail lounge façade revealed nothing of the depravity that hulked beneath as you descended the depths from one sub-basement to the next, the Iceberg was the hottest club in Saint Paul. And it was on the Right Wing’s shit list from opening day. Board it up, burn it down—they didn’t care how they were delivered from its scourge, but Wouldn’t somebody think of the children?! Meanwhile, the queers? The fornicators? The sinners-for-sport? We lined up to get in, to hit the spray-painted stairs and see how low we could go.

I had purple hair, tight abs in a tight T-shirt; I got in no sweat. Clomped down the stairs, blew past the first landing—hometown DJs, go-go dancers, big whoop. The second basement got more interesting. Here the hustlers and the gay-for-pay porn stars took off their shirts and licked their lips, enticed daddies and chubs to pop for a beer or a blow job while the drag queens with the highest hair in the Midwest lip-synched Katy Perry until she would have been sick of the sound of her own voice, had she managed to flirt herself past a bouncer. That’s where I saw her: strong freckled shoulders in a sequined tube top, seven feet tall in platforms, whipping that ponytail around the stage like a propeller, she was as white as any Minnesota blizzard I’d ever shoveled my way out of and called herself Vinda Lou Curry. So she got points for creativity on top of the Perfect Ten her body demanded. When I saw her duck up the stairs after her number, I didn’t think about it, I just followed. She cut between two bars to the back door. I bummed a quick cigarette from some underage twink as he scampered by, hung it from my lip, pushed into the alley. She had a fan club; I elbowed in. “Got a light?” Continue reading

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Clark Parker Bums a Smoke

Playing Clark Parker’s best friend in the school play was one thing, but finding the nerve to socialize with him at the cast party is quite another. And he’s coming this way…

My latest entry in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge is a 995-word romance. As a romance writer, I am of course much more familiar with the genre than I’ve ever been with, say, horror, which made this story harder to write than the first two in this competition because there was pressure for it to be perfect. But of course that pressure came mostly from myself, so I set it aside, imagined the Cutest Boy in School, and wrote the best Very Short Romance that I had in me this day. And threw in a little Music Man, just to be on the safe side.

musicman03

Our group was given Romance for a genre, a tugboat for a location, and a map for an object. I’m gunning for big points on creative use of prompts…  😉 Enjoy

Clark Parker Bums a Smoke

Where they got the idea to use a maritime motif for the playground, I’ll never know. We’re a hundred and eighty miles from the nearest navigable river, six hundred from the coast; hell, they even drain the pool for winter and half the spring. And it’s not like it’s a pirate ship or the Love Boat. No, the centerpiece of Agnes Schmidlap Park is about two-thirds of a wood-beam tugboat plying the gravel, two sun-baked old tires hanging off the side. You know, for authenticity. Some mayor who owned the meatpacking plant fifty years ago probably wanted kids to grow up thinking hard work was the ultimate fun. Help tug our town to success! Too bad they shut the plant down like ten years ago. God, I can’t wait to graduate and get out of here.

Six weeks to go. Meanwhile, tonight’s the “cast party” for The Music Man, which means a keg in the park and enough teenager tequila barf to float this tugboat. It was a fun show and all, but I’ve been playing Marcellus to Clark Parker’s Harold Hill since rehearsals started in February; if I have to spend five more minutes within arm’s length of his shimmery hair without running my fingers through it, I’m worried the effort’ll break my elbow. Here on the prow of the tug, I can at least lust after him from afar, without his goody two-shoes “concern” about me smoking.

Except now he’s walking over here. And he’s carrying two big red cups full of beer. Is one for me? Do I hide mine? Chug it? Marcellus had lines to bounce off Harold; I have fuck-all to say to Clark Parker.

“Hey.”

“Hey.” OK, that wasn’t so hard.

He offers me a cup. “You need a beer?”

Mine’s full. “Yeah. Thanks.”

I flick my butt into the night, hoping he won’t start up.

“Can I bum one?”

Look who’s full of surprises. “You don’t smoke.”

“I do all kinds of stuff.” Did Clark Parker just wink at me? That’s definitely worth a cigarette. Continue reading

Chivalry is Dead(ly)

Jumbo Beauprez hates coming to the dump because he’s lazy, OK, and not because he’s scared of whoever—or whatever—has gutted three people there in as many weeks. Although he probably should be.

DQ Chili Cheese

In the stories I usually write, any sense of Horror usually only crops up when the guy my main character is crushing on turns up wearing black shoes with a brown belt. In my recent acquaintance with NYC Midnight and their short fiction challenges, however, the genre has demonstrated a tendency to pop up. (My first NYC-mandated Horror outing can be found here.) And I’m not gonna lie: Horror scares me. I don’t read it, I don’t watch it — hell, I don’t even dress up for Halloween (unless it’s in a crafty Halloween sweater from the ARC with a ghost appliqued on it, such as the jazzy number I did sport last week). I didn’t have the confidence to post this story in the critique forum during the judging (I was too scared, get it? Horror…?), but this morning I learned that poor Jumbo here helped me advance to the next round of the Flash Fiction Challenge, and so I’m sharing his story here for those who may wish to read it as my way of thanking him for taking one for the team.

For this particular challenge, my group was given Horror for a genre, a garbage dump for a location, and a two-way radio for an object. The max word count was 1,000. Please enjoy

Chivalry is Dead 

Jumbo Beauprez hates coming to the dump. Yeah, it’s right by the Dairy Queen, but that only sounds like a bonus—when his gut’s so full of soft serve and chili dogs that it’s hard to breathe right, it makes pulling something like a solid cherry waterbed frame out of the bed of his truck a pain in his ass. You haven’t slumped into a 46-inch waist at 27 years old cuz you’re Mister Let’s-Lift-It. But the thing made him seasick even when he was banging Natasha on it. If she thinks she’s too good to hang around, he sure can’t see a need to flop through one more night like a flounder. He sleeps on it all day anyhow—he’ll be just fine on the couch.

Point is, the dump sucks cuz he’s lazy, not cuz he’s a pussy. Of course three murders in three weeks in a town the size of a Wal-Mart are gonna make the news, and yeah, he Googled “disemboweled” to make sure it doesn’t mean what he thought it meant—it does—but he’s lived here all his life. If anybody hated him enough to kill him, they would have done it by now. But just cuz he ate chili dogs in his truck doesn’t mean he came here for a Sunday picnic, either. He leaves the engine running and the lights on and hurries around to wrestle with the squeaky tailgate and get this show on the road. He huffs, he puffs, and the sweat pours out from under his ball cap; every time he has to reach around and yank his jeans back up over his ass, he bangs his other hand between the frame and the truck. He’s cursing Natasha and the waterbed she rode in on while he pants and pulls. If he jumps half out of his skin and squeals like a bitch at the beepity beep of an unseen walkie-talkie and a canned call for help, it’s only because it comes from out of nowhere, and startled’s not the same thing as scared.

Still. What the fuck? When it beeps again, he notices the yellow and black plastic two-way radio seemingly cast off at the base of a pile of refrigerator parts and car seats. He gets close enough to hear whoever’s got the radio’s partner beg her own handset for Scott. “Scott? Where’d you go? How do I get out of here?”

Another reason Jumbo hates the dump: what kind of county needs a landfill three times the size of the nearest town? Everyone Jumbo knows has at least one story of getting too looped at the dump to negotiate the maze out, and Chimpy Fortescue’s had to spend the night here twice.

“Scott?!”

But Jumbo’s just been dumped himself, he knows: Scott ain’t comin’ back to check for messages. If he hadn’t gotten you lost on purpose, he wouldn’t have left the walkie in the weeds when he bailed, Jumbo telepathically counsels the hapless disembodied voice. Good luck, Sister.

He’s not getting involved. He’s throwing a bed frame onto the nearest pile of somebody else’s shit and getting the hell out of here, is what he’s doing. What he wishes he hadn’t done is stoop close enough to ascertain that the walkie-talkie is still in someone’s hand, while the rest of what he figures must be Scott is nowhere around. Shit. Continue reading

More Meat, More Quickly

Betty Crocker

OK, so, in the interest of biting the bullet and taking the whole “challenge” concept from my last post way too seriously, I have decided to go ahead and post my “Horror Story” for the Short Story Challenge in the competition critique forum.  It seems like a very participatory group, which is different from any contest I’ve entered before, and I was all Big Talker Betty Crocker about having nothing to fear from feedback on this story, which is a lot easier to say when you keep the story secret and don’t give anybody the chance.  So here goes.

  • My Assigned Genre: Horror
  • My Assigned Subject: A Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)
  • My Assigned Character: A Prisoner
  • Max word count: 2,500

They’re looking for “interesting and inventive” stories, and  I’m gunning for big points in creative interpretation of genre and theme.  With that in mind, please enjoy “More Meat, More Quickly.”  And if reading it horrifies you, by all means say so — this is probably the only time I’ll take that as a compliment.  Continue reading

A Challenge? The Horror!

Since The Man from PigPerfect mysteriously turned up on her front porch, Janessa Chang-Showalter has had to shoot her dog, watch someone else shoot her hormone-crazed husband, and now she’s scared to death of the baby she’s being forced to deliver. She’s beginning to wonder if running off with Andrew to his Nebraska hometown was such a hot idea after all.

Scooby-doo-meddling-kids-1970

I love a good writing exercise.  Timed exercises; photo prompts; ones that use structure, like 100 words or haikus — I like the way they get things flowing, and I love to see the way a gang of writers can take the same prompt and take it in a hundred different directions.  So when a friend of mine told me about NYC Midnight’s Short Story Challenge, I was all in. There’s a time element (8 days, in Round One, to write a story from scratch), a word limit (2,500), and prompts relating to genre, subject, and character — a competition seemingly designed just for me!  I figured as long as I didn’t get Horror for my genre, I had this on lock.

The night before the Round One assignments were revealed, I actively fretted: I hope I don’t get Horror as my genre for the Short Story Challenge.  And the Universe, as is occasionally her wont, picked up on two key phrases — namely “Horror” and “the Short Story Challenge” — and lined ’em right up for me in the nick of time.  By fretting about it, I had more or less asked for it, and I sure did get it. Continue reading