Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Janet Flash: Smelling Blood

by Michael Seese

It's August. It's hot. It's humid. (Though it's cooled off the past few days.) 

So agent Janet Reid lamented, "Nothing to be done but torment writers with a particularly diabolical flash fiction contest!"

So for this week's Particularly Diabolical Flash Fiction Contest, she asked us to use the words:

fopdoodle (a simpleton, or fool)
Requin (French for shark)

in a 100-word story. 

I imagined an old fool hunting a shark, and concocted fairly quickly "Smelling Blood."

The Franco-fopdoodle tottering on his barstool waved a cautionary half-finger as he regaled a raft of downtrodden sots.

"I tried to stick le requin, how you say, shark, with my harpoon. But she escaped, and now could be anywhere."

I snorted skepticism. 

"C'est vrai! Tell him, Timpani."

"It's Tiffani," she said, topping his scotch.

"Take care, mon ami. She is close. Watching. Waiting. Hoping to taste blood again."

"Sure, pal. Hey, honey," I said to Tiffani, "Another, please. Seriously, does anyone believe that guy's stories?"

"Lucky for me, almost no one," she said, flashing row upon row of razor teeth.

I'm pretty happy with it, though I wish I had said "pearly razors" instead of "razor teeth." 

The results are not yet in, so keep your fingers crossed. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Janet Flash: (No) Escape

by Michael Seese

Just catching up from last week. 

For being chastised by a "Reider" for her use of or "less" rather than "fewer," Janet Reid challenged us to write a 100-word story using:


I was trying to somehow break up flue into something like:

"I have the flu."

But then I realized that "flue" is contained within the word "affluent," and the third sentence basically fell into place. Though I had to think a while to come up with nePHEW.

And so I present "(No) Escape."

We're "lucky." We're alive. Yet it's killing me, knowing my nephew and I were among the affluent few who secured seats, and flew away from it.

As the inferno grew behind us, he turned to me.

"What about the people back there?"

"Gone," I said, with necessary pragmatism.

"Mom? Dad?"

"They caught the flight before us."

How does one tell a boy he's an orphan at 12? That the world he's known is gone. That our new "home" also might be cinders. That radiation, starvation would be constant threats.

The bomb in my carry-on ensured I would not have to.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Janet Flash: A Deal With The Devil(s)

by Michael Seese

I just remembered I owed you my catch-up from the July 3 Janet Reid flash fiction contest

In this case, instead of prompt words, we were to use one (or more) of three prompt sentences, provided by blog followers (in a different contest, if memory serves).

"When you spot an orchid cactus at the grocery store, you bring it home." —Luralee

"Do the laundry or die!" —french sojourn

"Holy cow, that's a lot of empties." —nightmusic

That last one just spoke to me, though it took me a while to come up with the "A Deal With The Devil(s)."

The off-gray three-piece pinstripe, welded to his eternally hollow core, glummed through the door. 

"BUZZ!" blared the beleaguered buzzer.

"RED!" flashed the fidgety light.

"Negative!" called out the monitor, counting the days left until infinity. "Next."

Practiced smile plastered to her vacated visage, the pastel pantsuit waved involuntarily to imaginary followers in corporeal form as she lilted through the scanner.

"Another negative!"

"Holy cow, that's a lot of empties. I don't get it. Where are their souls?" asked the minion in red.

"My bad. And that's the last time I make a bulk deal with the Congress," muttered Satan. 

In hindsight, I'm not too happy with the last sentence. I wish I had written
"Holy cow, that's a lot of empties. I don't get it. Where are their souls?" asked the minion in red.

Satan sighed, singing the minion's fur. 

"My bad. That's the last time I make a bulk deal with the Congress." 

Oh well. I still made the long list.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Janet Flash: Currency Events

by Michael Seese

A few weeks back, agent Janet Reid posted a flash fiction contest that employed a prompt outside of her standard "use these 5 words" requirement. I entered, but didn't get a chance to post here, because of my busy mid-COVID life. I'll rectify that in a few days. 

Last Friday, she gave us another alt-contest.

After a recent blog entry showing a bear in someone's back yard, one of Janet's followers posted

I’m guessing this story didn’t run in the Flathead Beacon Police Blotter. With items like, “The golfer on the sixth green at a local course turned out to be a black bear,” it’s one of my favorite newsfeed subscriptions.

Janet thought it would be fun to have a contest asking us to write an item for Flathead Beacon Police Blotter

Being a former newsman and police beat reporter, I figured this was in my wheelhouse. But I couldn't find the inspiration Friday or Saturday. Then, with the 9:00 a.m. Sunday deadline looming, lying in bed at 7:30 I composed "Currency Events."

Local noted numismatist Penelope "Penny" Reed died yesterday in the parlor of her Roosevelt Avenue home. 

Police suspect foul play to be involved, as Ms. Reed’s body was discovered with 96 Morgan Dollars crammed into her mouth. No other weapons were found, as Ms. Reed was widely known to have an abnormal fear of hammers, baseball bats, tubas, and other blunt instruments. 

According to Police Chief Lincoln Nichols, "Clearly the killer understood the old adage. If you can't beat 'em, coin 'em."

Services will be held at the Washington and Jefferson Funeral Home.

The trick was to come up with the punchline, and then work my way back. 

Enjoy the rest of your hot, muggy (here, at least) Sunday.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Janet Flash: Eggasperation

by Michael Seese

With the world on lockdown, what is there to do? For some, re-discovering the joy of cooking is an option. Or learning something new about cooking, like "How To Boil Water." (Correctly, being the issue, I suppose.)

Super agent Janet Reid, an avowed lover of the 101 Things I Learned... series, decided to create a flash fiction contest to mark the Second Edition of 101 Things I Learned in Culinary School. (Ergo, the aforementioned boiling water reference.)

The recipe called for us to use:



in a 100-word short story. I wanted to split up chef, and tried ideas like "the leech effect." But I couldn't come up with anything around that, or other word combos. So finally, while walking the dog late Saturday night I came up with "eggsistential," and used that to write "Eggasperation."

Both my coffee cup and stomach effiercingly barren, I willed my eyes to force down the next stale morsel of "knowledge."

"Jean-Paul Salt, a close friend of Francis Bacon, examines man's true eggsistential dilemma in his classic work..."

My red pen adorned and scorned the top of the page with a scarlet letter F.

"Consider Occam's Butter Knife, a bread-and-grape-jelly example of…"

I rubbed my own bleary eyes, and dashed off a quick missive. 

Dear Dean HAMmond,
I would like to respectfully request that, going forward, the university schedule Philosophy 101 at some time other than 8:00 a.m.

How about you? What new skills are you learning these days?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Janet Flash: The Name Of The Game

by Michael Seese

So, how do we pass the time during these days of social isolation in the name of contagion containment? For many, reading is an escape.

(For me, it's writing and keeping the kids up to date on their homework.)

For literary Janet Reid, it's A LOT OF reading. As she said in her blog: 

I've read 18 Dick Francis novels in the last seven days. All of them were familiar friends and it was like taking a rest cure to dive back in. Reality just slipped away for four or five hours a night.

So from that book-binge came a contest. Craft a story using:


I wanted to come up with a fun way to split "banker." Once I did, most of the story fell into place. And once I came up with the punchline, "The Name Of The Game" was done. 

Their furtive glances. The fidgets in cold folding metal chairs. Proof that they, like me, craved change. But they held their tongues, afraid to forfeit the silence, the anonymity.

"It's an open forum," I began. "Let's brainstorm."

"I spend my life feeding some monopoly. The electric company. The water works."

"I'm not cut out for surgery. I always touch a nerve during an operation." 

"We should ban KerPlunk! And Risk. They're Satan's tools."

Confusion overruled diplomacy.

"What are you people talking about?" I snapped.

KerPlunk Lady held up my flyer. 


Perhaps I erred in calling it simply "Game Changers."

How about you all? How are you spending your time these days?

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Janet Flash: Words

by Michael Seese

To stave off the current world malaise, super agent Janet Reid decided to cheer us with a flash fiction contest.  In her own words, she needed to "wrap my head around the new reality, which we hope is temporary of course, and flailing about." 

To that end we had to incorporate:

froward (not a typo)

in a 100-word story.

"Froward," which I had to look up, means tending toward disobedience. I immediately had an image of a little boy, sitting in the Principal's office, awaiting punishing. And the rest of "Words" just jumped out.

My eight-year-old feet, well short of the floor, kicked only air as she talked about me in absentia, despite my presence.

"As has happened too often, his froward antics disrupted the class." Sister Scissor-Tongue liked big words. Even the ones she only pretended to know. "I question, and I'm certain you and Caleb ask, how he could be your offspring." 

I didn't even merit a name.

Clearly, she didn't grasp the ease with which sharp words can lathe a young soul. Shape it. Etch it.

Mar it.

I think of Sister Scissor-Tongue each and every time the needle finds vein.

I'm not sure from whence this darkness came. But I have to say, I'm rather fond of some of the language, specifically the opening sentence and the name "Sister Scissor-Tongue."

How about you? How are you coping with the new world order?