Bucking Bull Go-Round
By D. Avery
The dust from the activities and events of the Flash Fiction Rodeo is still settling like snowflakes around Carrot Ranch while old friends and new continue to gather around the warming fire that Charli Mills stokes for us all. With still more winners to be disclosed, even the hype and anticipation of Christmas pales in comparison to the excitement of the rodeo.
My hat is off to the twenty-nine brave writers who took on the challenge of the Bucking Bull Go-Round event, in which they had to write a story in exactly 107 words and eight sentences, demonstrating style and control even as their unique two-word prompt twists and bucks, determined to dislodge these fearless flash fiction contestants. All rode well, making the responsibility of declaring a winner a wild ride of its own. I am immensely grateful to my two co-judges for riding with me and applying their wisdom and experience to the task.
Drawing the bull Law Dog, Kerry E.B. Black wrote “Like Retribution,” our winner of the Bucking Bull Go-Round. This piece met the criteria of the multi-pronged prompt, complete with elements of danger and a body roll ending. While most of the judges had never had the perspective of peering at the law from amongst reeds in a swamp, all felt like Kerry had provided them with the next best thing to being there with her uncoiling story that twists from visual to visceral. Congratulations Kerry, you hung on for the count!
Like Retribution by Kerry E.B. Black
Jeb often ran afoul of the law, so he knew they’d be releasing the dogs. Shaking them took skill. He leapt into the water, waded deep into the reeds where the bullfrogs mated, and with his granddaddy’s pocket knife, cut a hollow stalk to use to breathe.
Howls announced their arrival, and Jeb slipped into his camouflage. He positioned himself so he could see through the lilies to the shore. The dogs circled, frantic, unable to pick up Jeb’s scent. The posse threw their hats on the ground and spat.
Jeb’s jubilation turned to terror, though, when a cottonmouth snaked through his cover and closed like retribution.
The danger faced by the character in “A Light Breath on the Embers” was of going further into the unknown of a relationship. We appreciated the toughness of that character, and the economical and effective style in the telling of that tale. While Kerry put us in the murky waters of a swamp, Liz H., astride Houdini Magic, had us on the butt-littered sidewalk, wondering whether her character would “pull a Houdini”, and gained her honorable mention.
A Light Breath on the Embers by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Meaghan drew deep on her cigarette, pinching its stub between thumb and forefinger. She could pull a Houdini and just disappear, but in this case, with this guy, she knew he deserved better.
She told herself it was the smoke making her eyes water and her heart pound. Dropping the butt on the sidewalk, she ground it under her boot heel.
She heard the slap of his tennis shoes before he wheeled around the corner. His cornflower blue eyes were the only bright thing on this cold-ass morning.
He looked at her like she was magic, like she’d never break his heart.
Sighing, she decided to stay.
One of the judges is a fantastic baker and cook and even concocts her own ice cream and sherbets. Perhaps that is why A. E. Robson’s “Blueberry Wine” resonated with her so strongly. Or maybe it is because the twist in Ann’s story was that the final product was wine. Regardless, Ann’s handling of Blueberry Wine garnered a judge’s top-pick.
Blueberry Wine by A. E. Robson
The weeks leading up to the event had been excruciating. Starting with hours on hands and knees, stretching this way and that, picking just the right ingredients for success. The equipment had been carefully selected. Trial, error and finally accomplishing results from the hours of work. There was no room for any slip-ups and the rules needed to be adhered to impeccably.
When everything was ready for the big day, the anxiety of entering the competition intensified. The day came and at its end, the competitors stood in the arena waiting for the outcome.
“The Fall Fair winner of the Homemade Beverage Category is, the Blueberry Wine!”
One situation you might not expect at a bull-riding event is that of two old women, linked, dancing in each other’s lives and entwined in a battle to the death, that is, battling to outlive one another. For his allusive ride on Two Telegrams, this judge’s pick goes to Geoff Le Pard.
Two Telegrams by Geoff Le Pard
Betty and Ethel linked arms. This waltz was their dance.
As Betty, straight-backed and serious, led, she thought of her brother Tom, smiling, arguing, teasing and always there for her.
Ethel, stooped but smiling, too had Tom on her mind as she let herself be turned slowly; her darling husband of a few short months before call-up and a sniper’s bullet ended her hopes.
War cruelly ripped the love from both women and forced them into each other’s lives. Initially each felt they had nothing to live for. Gradually they found common cause, one that kept them going and each was now 100. To outlive the other.
We all felt like “Atropa Belladonna,” by Christina Steiner, was a compelling story with good imagery, dialogue and a just desserts ending that just needed a tighter cinch on the sentence count. The flash of spurs on this ride caught Judge Jean’s eye and Christina’s Perfect Poison was her top pick.
Atropa Belladonna by Christina Steiner
“Mommy! Mommy! I found blueberries, can you make pancakes?” With a pleading look, four-year-old Carmen hands the basket of blue berries to her mom, they match the bruises on Rebecca’s arms.
“Carmen, where did you find them?” Rebecca shudders, “Did you eat any?”
“Just a few, they taste sugary,” Rebecca grabs her child and drives to the ER.
“Where are my girls?” Peter calls into the silent house, “I’m home.”
Peter’s anger mounts when Rebecca isn’t in the kitchen, a basket of berries awaits on the counter. There will be hell to pay when she shows up and he starts eating Carmen’s harvest of perfect poison.
I enjoyed and thank you all very much for the privilege of leading and judging the Bucking Bull Go-Round. When the brave riders were submitting their work I wrote a challenge piece. First I messed up my own word count. Then I edited and revised, because I could; even so, mine would not have been picked. I am not the bull rider that the 29 contestants are. As I read and reread their entries, I appreciated the challenges of this contest even more and recognized how well everyone rose to them. Thank you to all who sat in the chute and thundered into the arena. Each contestant made judging difficult, and it was all good.
NOTE FROM CARROT RANCH:
Congratulations to all the writers who entered! You dared to stretch your writing and braved the first Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. Each participant has earned the following badge, which you may copy and post on your blog, social media or print out and frame. It’s a badge of honor. And now you can say, you have had your first rodeo! You wrote well. And you braved the bull ride, the heart-thumper of any rodeo!
We want to share all the contest entries in a collection. We’ll be contacting each of our contestants and challengers to seek interest and permission to publish a digital collection in January. Writers retain all copyrights to their work.
We’d appreciate your feedback! We want to make this an annual event that is fun, engaging and supportive of literary art. Please take a few minutes for a brief 5 question survey. Thank you!